Travel to Costa Rica

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LiveSimple
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Travel to Costa Rica

Post by LiveSimple » Mon Apr 09, 2018 7:22 pm

Travel to Costa Rica

Planning to see if Costa Rica is worth a trip, please can you help share, your vacation in Costa Rica

Where did you fly in ?
Where did you stay ?
How did you move around ?
What places did you travel ?
What is the best part of you vacation ?
What should we be careful about ?

motorcyclesarecool
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by motorcyclesarecool » Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:26 pm

Flew to Liberia. Stayed near Coco. Had an incredible honeymoon.
Understand that choosing an HDHP is very much a "red pill" approach. Most would rather pay higher premiums for a $20 copay per visit. They will think you weird for choosing an HSA.

Boulder92
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by Boulder92 » Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:32 pm

Liberia
Living in Monteverde for 6 months
Private taxi/car shuttle service
Nicaragua and beaches on pacific side (planned this month)
The people of Costa Rica, the wildlife
In the beach areas it can be very hot, dry and dusty in some areas depending on time fo year. It is more expensive than you think here. It feels like Florida, very safe (except for San Jose) easy to get anything you need, and most people speak English, at least in tourism.

There are plenty of posts about CR on Bogleheads so I will add my opinion most of which is from observing and interacting with people from the USA. It is a country with different pockets and some people try too hard to run around to different areas. It can be a draining trip if you try to see too much of the country. I would pick two areas. For example Arenal and Monteverde, Caribbean side and Arenal, Monteverde and beaches on Pacific side or something like that. If you can travel a little off season you can save a ton on lodging and stay at some very nice places/lodges. Off season is becoming warmer and drier than the past years. People of Costa Rica are very reserved but if you push through and ask some questions they open up.
Most tourists rent a car but you can do it other ways, paying for transport as you go. I think the people who rent a car end up doing fine. There are bad road conditions and lack of signs but everyone manages nowadays with phones and asking directions. The TIco Times has a decent travel section with more trip tips, itineraries.

Boulder92
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by Boulder92 » Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:35 pm

I have met many people complaining about how crowded Manuel Antonio has become over the last few years. It is far to get too so you may want to skip that part.

cheapindexer
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by cheapindexer » Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:40 pm

Have been to cr twice

Flew into Liberia

The key to Costa Rica is that the inland part near arenal blows away the coastal areas

Staying at the springs resort is a must

kenoryan
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by kenoryan » Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:16 pm

We were just there last month with another couple from Michigan. We flew into San Jose. Rented a car and stayed a night near the airport. Traffic was crazy but we managed to have a really good night at the Airbnb. Then we drove to Jaco which is on the west coast. We rented an Airbnb there just north of Jaco. Nice big house that came with a pool boy and a housekeeper/cook/cleaning lady. For just $200 a night! River in the backyard and a nice pool. Cicadas all night long and macaws on the trees in the morning. Beautiful.

We drove to Manuel Antonio beach. It was fun. We also drove to Arenal. That was definitely worth it. We enjoyed the beaches near Jaco. Lots of hiking and waterfalls near where we stayed. Crocodile river was nearby and also a zip line place. We had a great time. Watched college basketball championship at a bar in Jaco.

We had WiFi at the house. So we downloaded the directions on google maps before leaving the house. Didn’t have to use cell phone data anywhere.

Roads are horrible. Make sure you rent a 4 wheel drive. Automobile rentals are expensive. We paid $900 for a week for our little RAV4 equivalent. Booze is cheap but if you want something better than local, carry your own scotch/gin/vodka. Carry bug spray and wipes. Wear good hiking boots. Take a car charger for your iPhone if you’re going to be driving a lot.

kenoryan
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by kenoryan » Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:18 pm

You have to keep in mind that the entire country is less than half the size of Michigan. Distances are short but roads are horrible.

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Raybo
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by Raybo » Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:01 pm

My favorite place was Bosque del Cabo —Private Resort in the Southwest near Puerto Jimenez.
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

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Nate79
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by Nate79 » Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:13 pm

Here was a previous thread on the topic where I describe a couple of our trips to Costa Rica. Wonderful vacations.

viewtopic.php?t=236280

Utahdogowner
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by Utahdogowner » Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:29 pm

the el salto swimming hole near Arenal was one of the highlights of the trip. Don't take anything nice - pick pockets galore, per a local. However, there were also plenty of people there who grabbed the rope swing for my wife, let us borrow some of their diving goggles, and just hung around and smiled w/ a couple of gringos.

Pura vida at its best. Truly a magical spot. And after that go soak in the Tabacon resort's hot pools. Totally worth the $20 / head entrance.

rvflyer
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by rvflyer » Tue Apr 10, 2018 8:28 am

Some good info on different regions of Costa Rica on the travel forums on Trip Advisor.

We did a first time trip over Christmas to Coco/Hermosa Beach area to join relatives in a nice house rental. Flew into Liberia which was 25 minutes from the coast. Pleasantly surprised by the entire week long experience. Concur with many of the comments above. Did day trips inland to visit points of interest or experiences like zip lining. Felt safer there than Mexico but petty theft still an issue. Best experiences-- zip lining (bus tour to hot springs resort northeast of Liberia for 13 stage zip lining and hotsprings pool/spa/mudbath afterwards). Enjoyed the quiet beach at Hermosa much more than Coco but there are more expansive resorts down the coast on the way to Tamarindo (surfing there). If you plan on adventure rent a car and make it an SUV with some clearance as the roads can be anywhere from paved all the way to dirt/rough (from coast to Monteverde). Enjoy! You will go back. An area blessed with many natural resources. Their #1 industry is tourism. (Much of the food served is gluten free already and the supermarkets in the tourist areas have some items for those with allergies/intolerances. You can pack dry goods without much issue-- no fresh fruits/meats into country in your luggage.

retired recently
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by retired recently » Wed Apr 11, 2018 9:55 am

My family and I spent 3 weeks travelling around Costa Rica after having spent about 5 weeks doing the same in Thailand the year before. While I recommend going to both and if you have not been to one it is definitely worth a trip, we cannot wait to go back to Thailand but would probably pass on another trip to Costa Rica.

Re Costa Rica, Arenal was underwhelming since the volcano was no longer active when we were there. We hiked to the Ranger Station and spent two nights there in the Osa Peninsula and it was amazing!!! Overall definitely worth a visit.

mega317
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by mega317 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 12:16 pm

kenoryan wrote:
Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:16 pm
Then we drove to Jaco which is on the west coast
Interesting post. I was in Jaco for a few days 13 years ago. I thought it was a dump, not much to do, prostitutes everywhere. Maybe it's changed, or maybe we weren't in the right part of it.

Rafting on the Pacuare was, however, one of the best experiences on my life. We did a 2-day trip and the overnight was at a permanent campsite with nice tents. One of rafts was entirely food and the guides made us the most incredible feast. Lots of Imperial and Flor de Cana too.

ustf
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by ustf » Wed Apr 11, 2018 12:40 pm

LiveSimple wrote:
Mon Apr 09, 2018 7:22 pm

Where did you fly in ?
Where did you stay ?
How did you move around ?
What places did you travel ?
What is the best part of you vacation ?
What should we be careful about ?
Flew in to San Jose, flew out of Liberia
San Jose:Hotel, Arenal:cottage, Monteverde:farm, Playa Grande:apartment
City to city transportation: car with driver, Arenal to Monteverde: Jeep-boat-jeep, within city: taxi
Poas volcano, Arenal volcano, Monteverde, Playa Grande
Best part: staying on a farm and walking around cloud forests in Monteverde.
-
Happy Travels!

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PharmVest
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by PharmVest » Wed Apr 11, 2018 2:57 pm

mega317 wrote:
Wed Apr 11, 2018 12:16 pm
kenoryan wrote:
Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:16 pm
Then we drove to Jaco which is on the west coast
Interesting post. I was in Jaco for a few days 13 years ago. I thought it was a dump, not much to do, prostitutes everywhere. Maybe it's changed, or maybe we weren't in the right part of it.

Rafting on the Pacuare was, however, one of the best experiences on my life. We did a 2-day trip and the overnight was at a permanent campsite with nice tents. One of rafts was entirely food and the guides made us the most incredible feast. Lots of Imperial and Flor de Cana too.
I was in Manual Antonio about 8 years ago and was told to steer very clear of Jaco unless I was interested in all the prostitutes and drugs available. It was from a local who had nothing to sell us =) i'd be glad to hear that it is improved since i want to go to Costa Rica again and would like to travel around further north

Jason

kenoryan
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by kenoryan » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:39 am

Wow, never heard about prostitutes in Jaco. We rented a house and spent most of our time at the beach or hiking and zip lining. Went into town for groceries and beer and ate out once. Didn’t see any prostitutes, probably because we weren’t looking for them! But we did see a local girl with not much clothing, hanging with a much older gringo at a restaurant and wondered if they were married. Now, what you say makes sense!

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9to5er
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by 9to5er » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:04 am

We traveled to Costa Rica in June 2016 (family of 5) and stayed in 3 areas 1) Jaco on the west coast, 2) Turialba in the central mountainous area, 3) Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the east coast. We found places to stay on HomeAway or VRBO. We had a great trip. Aside from our flight into San Jose, this is what it cost us (copied from my notes).

Transportation:
$100 from Airport to Jaco (driver arranged by the owner of the first rental)
$220 from Jaco to Turrialba - Driver is Ronny, phone 87063693
$180 from Turrialba to Puerto Viejo (Ronny)
Bus from Puerto Viejo ~$50 (The bus wasn't bad - been on worse in the US. Thought we'd try it since it was cheap and "an experience").
Total = $550

~Jaco, Playa Agujas 4 nights (small 1 room with kitchen and bath, but right on a pretty secluded beach. - We didn't venture into the city of Jaco about 9 miles south).
$75 Prepaid (have $100 refundable deposit)

Turrialba - Central jungle area. Different experience than the beach, but a great one.
Housing = $60/night x4 = $240.00
Rafting tour $60 /person (for 5 = $300)
Rappelling tour $45 / person (3 = $135)
Total = $675.00

Puerto Viejo - East coast beach. People are laid back similar to the Caribbean/Belize/Roatan, Honduras.
Prepaid rent - Canadian $628.00

Horseback riding $75/adult, $60/child (Total = $360)
Zip lining = $58/person (x3 = $174)
Surfboard rental (cheap, less than $20)

mrhelios
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by mrhelios » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:39 pm

Heading there in 2 weeks for 8 days. We decided on San Jose (2 nights), Arenal/La Fortuna (2 nights), Monteverde (1 night) and Manuel Antonio (3 nights). Plans include zip lining, waterfall tour, hot springs, cloud forest hike, canopy tour and then snorkeling and kayaking on the coast. We have a rental booked and we are using a mixture of cash/points to stay it different places.

texasdiver
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by texasdiver » Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:37 pm

I've traveled their four times.

First two times were decades ago when I was young and single. Flew into San Jose, rented a motorcycle, and toured the country by backpack and motorcycle.

Last two times were more recently with family.

Flew direct into Liberia

Rented small 4x4 SUVs in Liberia for the duration of the trip. First time with Vamos and second time with Alamo. Both good experiences.

First trip stayed for a week in a VRBO rental house in Puerto Carillo, Guanacaste (south of Samara) and for a second week in the Arenal area at the Leaves and Lizards resort. Did lots of excursions from both locations. Highlights were evening sea turtle tours at Playa Camaronal to see sea turtles coming out of the sea to lay eggs. And wildlife watching tours on the Rio Frio in Cano Negro in far north Costa Rica.

Second trip we stayed all 2 weeks in a different VRBO rental house in Puerto Carillo and did varous day excursions on our own in the surrounding area. As you can probably tell, we like Puerto Carillo a lot. My wife and I are both fluent Spanish speakers (she is Chilean) so we like to go someplace, get settled in, and just do our own thing.

Advice?

1. You can download the entire country of Costa Rica to your google maps on your phone for offline use and then keep your phone on airplane mode and still have complete street level GPS routing on your phone. You can also buy commercial maps for a Garmin but that is expensive and quirky. I did both and ran them side by side to compare. Both Google Maps and Garmin pretty much gave consistent routings although Google Maps was more likely to send us on smaller secondary road shortcuts.

2. You can buy pre-paid SIM cards for you phones to give you data and cellular coverage over most if not all of the country. Well worth doing, especially if you are with a family and will be separated at times. You can reload online but the web site is all Spanish and confusing. So I would just buy a ton of data from the start.

3. Pretty much ANY tour that travel agencies and hotels will package for you can be arranged by yourself for much cheaper just by poking around the web and asking locally. Or by just turning up at the locaion.

4. In pretty much any tourist area you can hire a very good local guide for the day to do pretty much anything or take you on any excusion which is sometimes a good idea. There are a ton of highly educated and interesting Costa Ricans making their living this way. Who will bring you places and show you stuff that you would have a hard time finding on your own. Plus they know where all the great out of the way roadside restaurants and such are located.

Finally, to answer your question. Yes, Costa Rica is very much worth it. I've been to all the countries in Central and South America over the years except for Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana. There are plenty of great destinations, but Costa Rica is probably the #1 location I would recommend.

Ilikesparklers
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Re: Travel to Costa Rica

Post by Ilikesparklers » Fri Apr 13, 2018 4:09 pm

We went in October 2017.

We flew into San Jose around 3pm, and took an Uber to the city for ~$20. Traffic between the airport and San Jose can be terrible. It took us nearly two hours to get to the our hotel (Don Carlos in San Jose). We didn't rent a car, and I don't feel we needed one for our trip. Uber's are extremely cheap. The Hotel Don Carlos is old-school and a great value ($50/night).

We rafted the Pacuare river the next day. The rafting company picked us up from our hotel. It was a lot of fun, and I'd recommend it. At the end of the day, they took us back to our hotel. If you're heading to the Caribbean coast, they can drive you there with your luggage at the end of the rafting trip.

The following day we took a public bus to Manuel Antonio (MA). The bus was super easy, cheap, clean, and comfortable. It took about 4 hours. They make one rest stop for a food/restroom break. We stayed at the Tulemar Resort for 3 nights, which was excellent. Plenty of monkeys and sloths around. Again, a car wasn't necessary. There's just one main road in MA, so between hopping on the bus and simply walking to nearby restaurants/markets, we could go everywhere we wanted to go easily.

We went to the national park with a private tour guide. It started pouring on our tour, and we were soaked. We decided to go swimming in the ocean in our clothes. :) There's a nice beach in the park.

The best tour we took was a night tour of the rain forest. Highly recommend. So many creatures come out at night, and our guides were excellent at spotting them. So fun and a little scary when they point out all the spiders and scorpions just a few feet away!

We took a bus back to San Jose and hopped in an Uber to get us to the airport.

Costa Rica was a nice country, and I'm glad we went. It definitely feels like a developing country. I'd recommend visiting, but out of the many countries I've visited, it's low on the list of places I'd be excited to return to.

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