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Bolaños Bay Resort, Costa Rica – A Solo Travel Report

Normally I wouldn't pay a single supplement to go on a group holiday, but last year I found that Signature Vacations had an all-inclusive package at Hotel Three Corners Bolaños Bay in the isolated northwest region of Costa Rica. Having been to Costa Rica before, I wanted to try something new, and with the group I could avoid dealing with irregular public transport. Going independently, I'd have to arrange for pick-up (see If You Go).

I would say that Three Corners Bolaños Bay Resort is single-friendly in all respects. This 4-star property has 10 bungalows and 72 rooms with showers, air-conditioning, telephones, private terraces, pool and gardens. The single rate is only C$65 including room, food, and alcoholic drinks. Danny, the chef, provides superb food, and tables are arranged so you can choose to eat with others or dine alone.


I enjoyed kayaking and mountain biking but preferred to watch while more experienced lads wind-surfed in Bolaños Bay, which is windy from November to March. Joba beach (a mile walk, or ride on horseback) and Rajada beach across the peninsula are tranquil, pristine and great for snorkeling and viewing beautiful sunsets.

Bolaños Bay is isolated, so all tours are 12 to 15 hours long, but several different trips can be arranged. Eleven year-old Tyler (who, incidentally, won his trip on the Internet) said he loved his Tempisque River Cruise in Palo Verde National Park where he got to see a sloth, an iguana and crocodiles in the mangroves.

One day a fisherman took six of us in his motorized dinghy (US$20) to Bolaños Island, across the bay about 1 km from the resort. The island has been a wildlife refuge since 1981. Its dry deciduous forest is home to frigate birds, brown pelicans, bats, black vultures, and it is the sole nesting place for the American oyster catcher.

Rather than take a guided tour, I and seven others rented a van and driver, which saved each of us US$30. We drove to Rincón de la Vieja National Park, named after its active volcano, which is composed of nine different craters. It last erupted in 1991. The park is a watershed for 32 rivers and home to a rich variety of wildlife.

At Alvarro Wiessel's mountain lodge we took the exciting canopy tour (US$32), and literally went swinging through treetop trails.

First, we sprayed on insect repellent before traipsing through the wet tropical forest to an 800-year old hollow kapok tree, which we climbed 25 meters (80 feet) to the first of 17 platforms. From that lofty position we began our treetop tour. All trussed up in safety slings we went sailing over the forest, swinging on steel cables 25 to 80 meters from one platform to another.

It was not exactly a graceful spectacle, but at least the local howler monkeys got a hoot from our Tarzan/Jane antics. I kept terror at bay by concentrating on the good looks of our three handsome guides and managed to feel fairly confident in my flying ability by the third platform.

In this manner we were supposed to get an idea of the three storeys of different vegetation represented in the park. The dry, tropical lowlands, ranging from 650 to 1,200 meters above sea level, sustain bitterwood and Spanish cedar. The intermediate zone reaches 1,400 meters, and you see yellow manwood and groves of twisted cupey. From 1,400 meters up to the summit, the trees are laden with moss and creepers, which creates a rich haven for at least 257 bird species that have been identified, including the quetzal, the great curassow, the emerald toucanet and the three-wattled bellbird. In this mountainous region you may have the good fortune to glimpse a jaguar, ocelot, two-toed sloth or tapir.

Also in the park, Las Pailas – The Cauldrons (US$6 admission) – is a field of multi- colored geysers and boiling mudpots located about 30 minutes by van from the lodge. Iron, copper and sulfur in the steam stain the rocks red, green and yellow.

Had time permitted, I would have hired a horse and ridden to the copper blue waterfall, but it was a three-hour drive back to Bolaños Bay, and we wanted to reach the Ehecatl Restaurant in La Cruz in time to catch a spectacular sunset.

My week at Three Corners resort was both relaxing and fulfilling. I was absorbed in activities that were far removed from my normal routine. I had time to rest and unwind, yet I also had good company when I wanted it.

At the hotel on Friday night I joined 250 locals salsa-dancing to the Baile con El Grupo band. Afterwards I scampered down to the beach with some children to play with the fluorescent plankton. We stroked it on our faces and legs and were literally glowing in the dark. That was a fun finale to a great week and a wonderful image to take home with me.

If You Go to Bolaños Bay, Costa Rica

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