We organized a tour in Puntarenas via okeydokey tours ( okeydokeytours.com ) . Our contact there was Charlie, the owner. After several emails to Charlie and numerous postings and replies to RCL’s Cruise Critic board, we ended up with 21 participants. The day looked very exciting and we all looked forward to our scheduled itinerary. We would visit a local residence to see and hand feed Capuchin monkeys, go to Jaco Beach, eat lunch at a typical Costa Rican restaurant, choose zip lining, swinging bridges or take the ‘Crocodile Man’ Tour and take in a scenic view from the waterfalls at Cabrera National Park where wild Macaws lived. It even included a stop to taste local fruits and another to purchase locally grown Costa Rican coffee and vanilla. Beer, water or sodas were included and the cost was only $75 per person. We thought that was quite a great deal.
The good: We started out with a visit to see the capuchin monkeys at a local home near the edge of the jungle area. Many of us were given pieces of fruit to hand feed them. That was fun. Later, half our group chose zip lining (‘the professional course’) that used 12 platforms. All said the experience itself was fantastic. The other half chose the Crocodile Man tour on the Tarcoles River. This excursion was more sedate than zip lining but quite interesting. Boating up the river with its large croc population, seeing our guide feed raw chicken to one of these giants and identifying other local wildlife and fauna, was a worthwhile experience. No one chose the Swinging Bridges option. The food at the restaurant was also quite good and plentiful. Beans and rice, chicken pieces, a pork chop or beef were offered with a salad and a drink. The air-conditioned Toyota bus was quite comfortable and just the right size for our group.
The not so good: 1. Too much down time. Many of us were upset at the poor scheduling of activities. It began right at port pickup when most of the group had to walk about half a km to the SECOND main gate because Charlie’s employee left with only 6 of us in a small van without our awareness, telling Charlie the others never showed up. This happened despite the fact we were expecting, as arranged, someone would be waiting for us holding a sign and the fact the group in general were ALL outside the ship waiting well before the arranged time (8:30 a.m.). When we finally did find Charlie, after the long walk to the second main gate, he blamed the employee for the error. I suspect that because private operators have to pay a fee for access to the main pickup gate, this was a factor. We ended up leaving late to begin our tour. Then, we had to stop shortly after we left as ice and drinks were not yet on board.
2. Organization Concerns. The timing became a huge issue for several reasons. Once we divided to either go zip lining or take the river tour, we lost almost two hours before reconnecting. The River Tour people finished and went for lunch and then waited around for 1 ½ hours for the others. Apparently the zip tour was some distance away and there was significant wait time involved before they all could start and finally finish. Then they had to be bussed back before having their lunch. Meanwhile, the River tour folks waited. The restaurant itself was a popular local establishment, a short walk from Jaco Beach. Unfortunately no one got to really enjoy the beach because of all the wait time (the zip half never even got to see it). Meanwhile Charlie took those waiting on the bus (parked on the street outside the restaurant) down the road so he could see his wife and arrange to meet up with her later. More time lost. Now it was getting late and we were about an hour from the ship. Traffic was building and we started to get concerned about the need to be back to the ship by 6:30 p,m. In the end, the traffic was stop and go so we missed Cabrera National Park, the waterfalls and a visit to see Macaws in the wild. Despite the concern over time, Charlie still took us to a souvenir shop (clearly a tourist trap with everything priced in American dollars) and a GROCERY STORE to buy the coffee, vanilla or whatever. Prices were not cheap. Whatever happened to the coffee or mango plantation? The fruit grove was in fact a road side stand. The fruit was delicious, but again not the location we expected and we stayed way too long.
All were disappointed with the shortened itinerary, missing some key places of interest, and the almost two hour late return to the ship, as we were originally supposed to return by 4:30 p.m. We needed to be back by 6:30 p.m. at the latest and we arrived, thankfully by 6:15! Charlie acknowledged he knew about the Sunday traffic jam but hadn’t made accommodations for it. Hence we had to cancel some of the stops.
The verdict: Overall, for $75, we go to see and do things that were interesting. Certainly what we did do was a much better deal than tours offered by the ship. If the timing was better and more organized we would have had a fantastic deal and an amazing day. Unfortunately this was subpar. If you use Charlie, tell him to forget his associate at the souvenir shop, the grocery store and the beach unless there is time built in for a walk or a swim (the water is like a warm bath). Ask him to avoid the personal stops to talk to family, pick up ice and drinks in advance and stick to the itinerary. I would even suggest you choose only one of the options in advance to avoid the group from splitting or keep your tour group small enough to avoid wasted time trying to keep everyone together. Charlie is a nice fellow but organization isn’t a strong point.
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