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Costa Rica ideas pretty please!

November 10, 2011

Hello friends =) I need your expertise today! Anyone out there been to Costa Rica? Want to share your experiences, ideas, suggestions with me? I would love that! Everyone I talk to who has been to Costa Rica has done an all-inclusive, so I am wondering…is that the best way to go? Cheapest? Easiest?
I am not worried about needing a translator (aka guide) since my brother is fluent in Spanish, and so I am wondering if it would be cheaper to book everything myself when we get there and not pay for a package ahead of time. Thoughts? Would this be a bad idea? Is public transportation or are taxis easily accessible there? (As you can tell I basically know nothing. I have never been to South or Central America so I need lots of help and would love to hear from people who have actually been there/done that)
I am basically trying to plan for 8 people and we’d need 4 rooms. Booking 4 rooms in a hotel for 10+ days could get very expensive, which is why the all-inclusive packages are tempting. But, I also found a beautiful and huge 4 bedroom/6 bath house that we could rent through and I love it. It’s located in Playa Hermosa…Anyone been there? I had originally wanted to be on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, but Playa Hermosa is on the western/Pacific Ocean side. Any suggestions on which areas are prettier? Of course we’d want to do all the typical Costa Rica stuff, white water rafting, zip lining, volcanoes, rain forests, etc.
So if you all could give me ANY suggestions or recommendations, I’d really appreciate it. I don’t know for sure where we will end up going, but since Costa Rica keeps coming up in the conversation I’d like to map it out a bit and get some ideas.
Thank you in advance!!!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2011 11:35 am

    I spent a few months in Costa Rica and wrote the following for a friend who was looking at going. If you want me to elaborate on anything, just ask. As far as playa Hermosa, it is nice, but dont expect to see much besides the beach if you book the vacation house for your whole trip:

    As a general rule of thumb, stay on the Pacific side, although there are a couple exceptions Ill touch on here:

    Im guessing you will fly into San Jose then rent a car. Head north to Arenal Volcano & relax for a day or 2 in the hot springs. On the drive to Arenal there are zip lines & bungee jumping. As I recall the nice hotel/spa is built around the volcanic springs, so if you stay in another cheaper hotel, youll have to pay a few buck for a day pass. There is white water rafting around there too, check water levels first as the tour operators will gladly sell you a rafting trip then make you carry the raft thru the low spots( lesson learned the hard way). Head west from there to the northern beaches, i think theres a good one called Playa Flamingo or Playa Bonita, known for its surfing & leather back turtle nesting (check for time of year), then head south on the niacoya penninusla to Mal Pais/Monte Verde – surfing, jungle, canoe the mangrove reserve. From there, its a full days drive to Manuel Antonio. Id end it there & its an easy drive back to San Jose. The northern beaches are where Costa Ricans from San Jose vacation but there will be tourists up there too. Mal Pais has the Europeans & Americans, Manuel Antonio is generally busy with tourists & backpackers as its a popular nature reserve easially accessed from San Jose, and it has crazy amount of white faced monkeys known to steal your pack if left unattended. Playa Jaco is nearby too, but after staying there I found the beach dirty and the bars overrun with dirty prostitutes & ‘johns’ fresh off their fishing charters, made for good evening entertainment watching how many times a girl would leave with a guy then come back about 30 mins later & repeat. There may be a Sandals type resort that is nice nearby, but again, just a little further south Manual Antonio is cleaner & prettier.

    speaking of monkeys, CR has 4 types of monkeys: white faced “caputchins” – think Ross’ monkey from Friends, spider monkeys – bigger, disproportionately long arms & a little reclusive, howler monkeys – sound like a dying dinosaur, become annoying quickly and squirrel monkeys – small & cute but will throw things at you if you get too close. I think you can find 3 of them in Manuel Antonio & the forth around Mal Pais

    All the above places are a little on the touristy side (still dirt roads and all, but you know, lots of english & white people) For a little different experience the north Caribbean side is fairly undeveloped and has a well known B&B that is only accessible by boat, never made it there but sounded awesome – pristine jungle & sea turtles. Or the Osa peninsula (south pacific coast) offers some of the best hiking/nature/wild animals anywhere in the Americas. There is a week long hike where you are pretty much guaranteed to see a Bairds Tapier, miniature deer, giant rodents of unusual size, along with monkeys, McCaws, crazy insects, 6″ neon blue butterflies and the like & when you get to the coast, some amazing snorkeling & scuba as well. I was a volunteer on the Isla de Cano and can highly recommend the region if you are up for the challenge.

    With the exception of that turtle reserve/hotel accessible by boat in the north, Id stay away from the Caribbean side as the banana plantations further up the coast in Mexico have killed the vast majority of coral reefs leaving the whole Caribbean coast fairly bleak in the water & on land. Unless your into buying weed & reggae music, its just not worth the drive. Although, Cajuaita (spelling?) is a small national park on the carribean side that you can find pit vipers – I only saw a small 12″ one, along with the everpresent howler monkeys & even a few sloths.

    CR doesnt really offer a “home base” that you can go out and explore from, the roads kind of suck and things youll want to see are kind of far from eachother. There is no reason to stay in San Jose, but if you happen to find yourself stuck there for a day for your flights, skip the museum of gold, its disappointing. instead opt to go see the coffee plantation.

    thats my 2 cents.

    Pura Vida,

    • November 10, 2011 11:47 am

      Thank you so much for the ideas, that’s very helpful. Kinda a bummer about not being able to have a “home base” (especially since I already fell in love with this huge house and it’s beautiful infinity pool =P) but that does make sense. Especially as I am looking things up online and realizing everything we want to do/see seems to be a bit more inland. I’ll definitely look up the places you recommend.
      Thanks again, I appreciate it!

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