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Thread: Costa Rica

  1. #1
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    Costa Rica

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    We're planning a small vacation to Costa Rica over Thanksgiving 2010. Anyone have experience there, must-sees or recommendations? We're interested in beaches, otherwise everything sounds interesting. I have a couple guide books. And advice from a former tour adventure guide. But I thought I'd throw it out here and see what all you'd found that's good.

    At the moment I'm leaning toward Cahuita, or the Osa Peninsula. Beaches, with not so much tourism. Osa may be out because it appears mostly not to have internet. We want something off the beaten path...but not too far off.

  2. #2
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    PM Catriona.
    She just got back

    The only thing I know is don't get the $20/night hotel. They have bedbugs. Spring for the $40/night.
    It looks gorgeous. Lucky you .
    Last edited by Zen; 12-03-2009 at 09:02 PM.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melalvai View Post
    We're planning a small vacation to Costa Rica over Thanksgiving 2010. Anyone have experience there, must-sees or recommendations? We're interested in beaches, otherwise everything sounds interesting. I have a couple guide books. And advice from a former tour adventure guide. But I thought I'd throw it out here and see what all you'd found that's good.

    At the moment I'm leaning toward Cahuita, or the Osa Peninsula. Beaches, with not so much tourism. Osa may be out because it appears mostly not to have internet. We want something off the beaten path...but not too far off.
    What really do you want to see/Do while on beaches? Costa Rica's got like 1200 miles of beaches on the western side, and another few hundred on the Carribean side. If you're thinking about snorkeling, end of november is end of the rainy season, and there's gonna be a fair amount of sediment in the water because the rivers are so swollen and dumping in... so visibility near the coast line is going to be not very good, you're going to have to get away from the coast to do it.

    How long are you going for?

    If you don't have the Lonely Planet for Costa Rica, you should get it. It's fairly accurate, especially for prices of hotels - food prices have risen a bit at a restaurants mentioned.

    And you should remember that there is a huge tourist industry in Costa Rica, it's very developed and it's been going on for years. And all of them are reading the lonely planet and all the rest of the guide books and thinking... "we want to go off the beaten path" So you are not going to completely escape the rest of the tourists. Osa's harder to get to, so you might be okay. So if the osa peninsula doesn't have internet now (which I kinda doubt), it may very well have it next year. The Carribean side is very hard to get to, in rainy season you definitely probably need a plane, and that's going to be the most isolated. Most tourists will be concentrated where the bus lines serve, not as many people have rental cars, so often times you'll get to an area of beaches and most of the tourists will be staying at one small town at one beach and a few kilometers up or down the coast line in either direction, the beaches will be empty. Especially if the roads are bad. So lots of times you really don't have to go far to get away from the other tourists - but once you do that your options for food & lodging get limited.

    Costa Rica is nice in the sense that for a third world country, the water is good, everyone has electricity, there's internet and wifi almost at every hotel no matter how remote you are, and there really isn't beggars, etc. So it's not going to be as cheap as third world countries. The country is almost in collusion on prices of hotels - hotels at the $20 range are sketch and where I encountered bed bugs. HOtels in $35-45 range were clean, nice enough and bed bug free. Often they'd be "cabins" and often with multiple beds - a group trip to costa rica would end up cheap with cabins with 3 beds for $45 or so. $60 range gets you a very nice place, and after that the sky is the limit for prices, $600 a night resorts, etc. Most of the hotels don't really discount their rooms if they're empty or because it's low season, especially if they're in the lonely planet. You'll go up to an absolutely empty hotel and the room'll be $100 a night and the fact that noone else is staying there doesn't seem to make them want to discount the room at all. The gov't regulates the price of gas, so gas station prices is the same thoughout the country.

    I wanted to get over to the Osa Peninsula, but didn't because it would take a long time to get over there from the rest of the country and it was rainy season. I did hear a number of other tourists say they were going over there. If you're talking thanksgiving - you're talking about just about the end of the rainy season. Dry season starts in December, prices go up and the place becomes a lot more crowded. So thanksgiving should still be lightly touristed... but the rivers and the rest of that will still be swollen, which means that certain river crossings and drives won't be doable. I know there's a through hike in the park on the Osa Peninsula that is not doable during the rainy season. It sounds like you really don't want to be doing hiking and such?

    Are you planning on renting a car? If you are - know that they will charge you a mandatory insurance cost, which will be at least $10 a day, and if you go with the cheapest car rental, probably more like $27 a day. Driving - driving is not that bad if you are used to driving on very pothilled roads, we did get a 4wd, it wasn't strictly necessary, we did use the 4wd a couple of times... and we did do some creek & river crossings when the road disappeared under a river. If you're going over to osa, you probably need 4wd for the local roads over there. Just count on an average speed of maybe 20 mph. HIghways have higher speed limits, but there's still pedestrians, bicyclists, everything else going on.

    YOu can get small flights over to Osa, and you might want to consider that if you're going on a quick trip, because it is hard to get over there quickly.

    If you're considering doing the northwest side of the country at all - consider flying into Liberia instead of San Jose.

    Must do's... I guess there's Arenal, everyone goes to see that volcano - and it sounds like quite often it's covered in clouds (cloud forest) and you don't see anything. I didn't see anything. Almost all the tourists stay in La Fortunata for Arenal - if you go a little bit further, around the volcano and go stay in El Castilo, you're closer to the park and there's a lot less tourists with still some nice places to stay. I had a little cabin that overlooked lake arenal. As you go west along the lake, you're going to have a lot less tourists and the roads are going to get worse. For any of the hiking trails around Arenal or in the national parks in general - there are really going to be something like 11 km of trails and you're going to find all the tourists in the closest 3 kms to the entrance, and if you go on the longer trails, you really won't see many people. Trails through the rainforests can often be very muddy and if you're not at one of the big popular national parks, they can be a mudfest vertical up something where you're climbing up tree roots, whatever. So they can be slower than what you'd expect for a 4 km trail or something. There's one up to a volcanic lake near Arenal that literally is a trail up the side of an old volcano that's eroding away so the trail is kinda carved 2 feet down into the side with rainforest on each side and filled with mud. Not so many people doing that trail.

    If you want a more remote rainforest/volcano experience, it is really gorgeous up by volcan Rincon de la Vieja, that's in the northwest corner of the country, about 20 km up crappy roads from LIberia. There's a lot less tourists, 'cause they're all over at Arenal. the area around there looks more like savannah, with areas of rainforest - the rainforest there is very different from arenal, you see more strangler figs and guancaste around there. There's hikes that go past mud pools, volconcitas, and various geothermal activity, along with hikes to hot springs you can walk. We stayed in some cabins at Rinconcito that were really nice.

    Montverde - okay, everyone goes there to see the rainforest/cloud forest. The roads are really crappy up there, but yeah, there are tour buses full of people getting off the bus to see it. Maybe 10 kms away, if that... There's Santa Elena cloud forest, and the tour buses don't go there. Yes, the rain forests are different, but probably without a guide to tell, you might not notice it. Santa Elena was rainier and colder than Montverde but I don't know if that's how it normally is or not. But the cloud forest is really really lush up at both with a ton of air plants, etc. So I'm not sure I'd tell you to skip them if you go...

    Ziplining... If you wanna go fast & go wheeeee, then do them. they're fun and it's a lot cheaper than in the states. I did one over near Playa NOsara which was 11 km of ziplines from mountainside to mountainside near the beach - gorgeous views. Yeah, there was rainforest canopy and howler monkeys around, but you're going fast enough that you really don't appreciate the wildlife and I liked the idea of beach/mountainside views better. If you really want to be in the canopy of a forest and look at them, I think I'd recommend you do one of the hanging bridge tours in rainforests where you actually have time to see things.

    Consider the Nicoya Peninsula for beaches. It is like 1200 km or miles of coastline. There is a beach there for everyone. Some for good surfers, some for beginning surfers, some for whatever... And given that there's so much coastline, you really don't have to go very far to have a beach all to yourself. The northern corner of the coast is all national park - you can camp in there or you can stay in bunks in the research station in the national park. lots of surfing beaches up there. But given the limitations on camping/bunks... there won't be that many other tourists. At the northern part of Nicoya, at Playa Ocotal we stayed in a gorgeous apartment in a Villa that some Americans had for like $60 a night. Most of the tourists are up at Playa hermosa or playa del coca... playa ocotal is not as built up and doesn't quite have a town... Driving south from there, the guide books recommend that you go back west and take the main roads and then take the roads east and not to take the local road on the coast line... Yes, the local road is in crappy shape and disappears under a creek in a few sections... but noone's taking it because the guide book says not t and the buses don't go there... so there are a lot of empty beaches.

    Same with around Playa Samara - it's got a town, yet go a litlte bit down the coast to playa carrillo or nosara and the tourists peter out (there are a bunch of yoga institutes and surfers around nosara... carrillo's more pristine...) Go further down the coast to get to Islita and even though islita's only like 20 kms further it ends up being about a 2 hour drive... Islita is empty because of that. Thre is 1 resort there, but I didn't see anyone staying at it or on the beach. Beaches are public in costa rica.

    The drive south from islita isn't recommended in rainy season - usually you have to go arond and take the ferry over to the southern end of the Nicoya peninsula - which makes it a mild pain to get over to that section of the Peninsula and it's a bit less touristed - the tourists are all going over to Montezuma when they go over there, so there's less of them when you go to any of the other beaches. We stayed around Playa Tambor which was a local fishing village. Curu national park down there is fairly empty and very nice.

    You can actually rent decent kayaks down around Curu (most of the places in costa rica you can just rent short fat sit on tops) and there are a lot of islands that you can kayak out to - again, most people are just kayaking to the Tortuga islands which are a couple miles off shore if that and they snorkel around them and go back in. But there's a lot of other islands, you can camp on most of them, and people don't go out to them. You can also kayak to sections of beach where there's nobody.

    pics:
    http://picasaweb.google.com/immunogirl

    Let me know if you have any specific questions.

  4. #4
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    Catriona, thanks for all the info! I have the Lonely Planet book and the Moon book. I like comparing what the 2 books say about each place.

    We're going to do this over thanksgiving break next year, so we'll stay for 5 days. That's why I want to find a place and just stay there. I know we can't see 1/10th of everything in less than a week, so I thought we'd just enjoy the beautiful country. As far as getting away from tourists, I don't want to get too far away from them...maybe I'm not sure what we want!

    My daughter wants to surf, scuba dive, snorkel, zipline, and everything else (we've never done any of those things in the midwest). I'm generally a foolishly courageous person, doing things like biking 744 miles by myself, but I'm feeling like the wet blanket right now because I'm scared of rip tides, and heights... She wants to try everything!

    I'd be content to splash around at the edge of the ocean every day all week.

    I've given us 2 months to decide. There's so many options right now! Hopefully we'll get it narrowed down soon.

  5. #5
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    I'm sure you guys won't have any problems finding something to do! The country is beautiful just about everywhere, the people are really nice, and you should have lots of fruit and milkshakes. and red snapper.

    I can't really comment on osa, I just re read the section in the lonely planet & it sounds gorgeous - but if you've got 5 days (is that with a travel day on either side?), I think most flights come in late at night - and then you're probably going to have to spend the night near san jose or liberia (whichever you travel into) and if you're driving/taking a bus to Osa, that is probably going to take half the day, at least. A flight would probably be better. It gets dark around 5;30 that time of year - so you're going to want to do the get up early thing, and usually you do anyways because you start hearing the traffic and or the chickens crowing. Then on the way back, you're probably going to want to get back to LIberia or san jose the evening before, and get a hotel near the airport.

    There's pretty much a zipline place everywhere around the country...

    Surfing's usually something that's available maybe every other beach - like $3 an hour to rent a surf board, if there's enough of a tourist industry at the beach to actually have someone there renting one. the more isolated beaches don't necessarily have anyone renting anything.

    I was there from the 7th-22nd of November, so probably I was there around the same time... So it was basically the end of the rainy season which is when you're talking about going - I snorkled a bit off the Tortuga islands down across from Curu national park and around playa samara and up around ocotol... Costa rica's really not the best for diving & snorkeling (not that I'd been snorkeling before)... around samara & ocotol, there were sooo much sediment in the water that you really couldn't see much, you could do better in the tide pools. The water was clearer down around the Tortuga islands and I did see a lot of fish - but the coral was for the most part dead. The guide I talked to around the Tortuga's said it's a little better if you go out where people scuba dive, but the reefs still aren't healthy because of people breaking off coral, pollution, whatever. From the books description, it sounds like things are healthier around Bahia Drake in the Osa Peninsula - but it also says the rainy season lasts till Mid December there and to ask how the visibility is in the water.

    If you end up maybe deciding to fly into liberia & do the north western section of the country (it's going to be drier in November than most of the rest of the country... however the beaches tend to be dry), this was probably the nicest place I stayed:
    http://www.villavistamar.com/cms/fro...t.php?idcat=82
    It ran about $65 a night for an apartment with kitchen and just had a breathtaking view, they had a pool & hot tub - and howler monkeys play in the trees around it in the evening:
    Pictures of that place in particular are here ('cause i think my photos are better) and you can see in some of the pictures, the sediment in the water.
    http://picasaweb.google.com/ImmunoGi...coyaPeninsula#

    Their website mentions day trips that are nearby, it is close to volcan Rincon de la Vieja if you want to see some rain forests and volcanos, close to the national park of beaches in the north west corner, and not so far from the beach. American owners. I'm thinking of going back there with some relatives on a relaxed beach vacation as opposed to the 2 week mad dash all around the country that I just did.

  6. #6
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    My daughter's bike wreck left her with a fracture in her left pinkie finger (proximal phalanx). They took the cast off and taped 2 fingers together. She's not to play clarinet or swim. I didn't think to ask about zip-lining! It'll be 2 1/2 weeks after her wreck, when we are in Costa Rica. Thoughts?
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  7. #7
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    Costa Rica Rocks!

    Mel, for ziplining, your daughter will need to hold onto the front of the harness with one hand, and steady the line lightly with her back hand. The pictures on this site seem to show it: http://www.monteverdeextremo.com/can...per_cable.html

    Not sure if this will hurt or reinjure her fingers.
    Last edited by tangentgirl; 11-12-2010 at 02:28 PM. Reason: Original picture link broken

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melalvai View Post
    My daughter's bike wreck left her with a fracture in her left pinkie finger (proximal phalanx). They took the cast off and taped 2 fingers together. She's not to play clarinet or swim. I didn't think to ask about zip-lining! It'll be 2 1/2 weeks after her wreck, when we are in Costa Rica. Thoughts?
    If she holds on the front of her harness with her bad hand and brakes with her good hand, I think she'll be fine. Truthfully, you don't have to hold your harness at all - but generally it makes you feel a little bit more secure. If she's right handed, she's probably going to naturally brake with her right hand anyways.

  9. #9
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    Hi, Melalvai, [Edit update: I thought you meant the Limon/La Cahuita area, but I now see that the Osa Peninsula is down south and west—Sorry.]

    I'm so excited about your going to the Cahuita region, and I have just the place for you to visit! You won't be sorry one bit! In Spanish it's Refugio Aviarios del Caribe and it's a sloth sanctuary, the only one I know of in the world. The sloth is the most incredible animal, and this sanctuary has both the two-toed and three-toed sloth. Buttercup was the very first sloth rescued, and she is still there and is now quite famous. When I was there a few years ago, I was able to hold her, a moment in my life I'll never forget.

    Here is the web site, and I hope you'll browse around here, as it's just the most fascinating place ever. By the way, it's also a small boutique-type hotel and a stone's throw to La Cahuita. :-)

    http://www.slothrescue.org/index.html
    Last edited by kjay; 11-13-2010 at 09:58 AM.

  10. #10
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    Sorry, kjay, we ended up not selecting Cahuita, but went with a place near Liberia. The area might be a bit more touristy but I felt with only 7 days, and really that's only 5 days because of travel, that we'd be better off with a place that is easy to get to.

    Cataboo had found one place, Vista Villa Mar, that she wished she could spend several days in. That seemed perfect for us. Not too much sight-seeing, just lie around and enjoy the beach & howler monkeys!

    The sloths sound really interesting and it was something I looked into when we were planning this. Sloths are such unique creatures!
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  11. #11
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    I'm listening to the howler monkeys and the tide right now sitting on the balcony in front of our apartment at Villa Vista Mar. They remember you, Catrin*. The view sure is easy on the eyes.

    Forecast back home this week, the HIGH will be right at freezing. Right here in the coolest time of the day I'm barely shivering in my shorts & tshirt.

    I could get used to it!

    *Edit: The owners of the Villa, not the howler monkeys.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melalvai View Post
    I'm listening to the howler monkeys and the tide right now sitting on the balcony in front of our apartment at Villa Vista Mar. They remember you, Catrin*. The view sure is easy on the eyes.
    Er, that should have been Cataboo of course. Sorry, this Spanish is hard on my brain and I have trouble remember English and names! (At least that's my excuse, next week I'll have to think of a new excuse.)
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  13. #13
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    We are flying home tomorrow morning and we have had an absolutely wonderful time. We stayed in Villa Vista Mar per Cataboo's recommendation. Our hosts, Ed & Lorrie, were absolutely wonderful and sort of acted as travel agents when we needed. We are completely novice travelers and this is our first vacation we have ever planned. (I am not counting a couple overnight trips where we didn't even leave the state. Or the week in Colorado that my parents' planned. Or a couple visits to family & friends in other states.) So we really needed their advice which they were eager to share!

    I'll post more details later, especially about the road conditions & all the cyclists & pedestrians!
    2009 Trek 7.2FX WSD, brooks Champion Flyer S, commuter bike

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melalvai View Post
    Er, that should have been Cataboo of course. Sorry, this Spanish is hard on my brain and I have trouble remember English and names! (At least that's my excuse, next week I'll have to think of a new excuse.)
    I figured that was who you meant, wasn't going to mention it I am certainly looking forward to hearing more about your trip!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melalvai View Post
    I'm listening to the howler monkeys and the tide right now sitting on the balcony in front of our apartment at Villa Vista Mar. They remember you, Catrin*. The view sure is easy on the eyes.

    Forecast back home this week, the HIGH will be right at freezing. Right here in the coolest time of the day I'm barely shivering in my shorts & tshirt.

    I could get used to it!

    *Edit: The owners of the Villa, not the howler monkeys.
    Hey Melavai,

    I finally just saw this - I was actually close by when you were posting this. I was in Costa Rica for a day on the 29th. We just went around Puntaranes for the day. It was brutal getting back to the US and the cold after 2 weeks at 90 degrees.

    I'm actually really surprised that Lorrie & Ed remembered me, I only stayed 1 night, but really should have stayed more! They really were super sweet and nice people when we stayed there. I'm glad they took care of you as 'travel agents'

    How was your trip? I was worried that maybe I had you stay somewhere too remote (we had a rental car when we were there). Did your daughter manage to zip line? We want details!

 

 

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