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Advice for newbies to CR

Old Feb 28th, 2004, 07:19 PM
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Advice for newbies to CR

My husband and I are planning our first trip to CR in May and would like some advice.
1) From what I can tell May is in right on the end of the dry season and beginning of the rainy season. Does that mean it will look awfully brown and not very beautiful? If we had to we could book a different month by re-arranging our vacations this year.
2) What regions do you recommend we visit in order or your favorites? We were going to stay for 7 days, but we could stay up to 10 if it is worth it.
3) If we split up our time between the Carib. coast and the Pacific coast would you recommend a 50-50 split of our time?
We have decided not to spend time in San Jose, only because we are not planning
an urban vacation.
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Old Feb 28th, 2004, 08:31 PM
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With just a 7-10 day trip I would not recommend that you try to do both coasts. There will have been some rain by then and things should be greening up a bit. 10 days may seem like a lot until you get there. There is such diversity of things to see and do that you can just barely get a feel for a tiny bit of it in that time.
The biggies for most first timers are Arenal and Manuel Antonio. Many also try to fit in a touch of Monteverde. Depends on what you want to see and do. The Manuel Antonio area offers the most things to do while Arenal offers a live volcano that in May might not be seen although you could get lucky. It won't be rainy all the time so you will have plenty of time to get out and do things. The Nicoya area and north would be the driest and has some nice beaches for surfing and a few for just swimming.
It would help to know what kinds of things you would enjoy seeing and doing. If you read some of the back postings you can get an idea of what is available to see and do.
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Old Feb 29th, 2004, 03:55 AM
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Dear Poogie,
Welcome, once you have joined the forum, you are a newbie no more!
The first time I came to Costa Rica, it was in the middle of May, and I thought everything was so green and the green, was the "greeneiest" I have ever seen... Now that I live here I know that there are many greens, but you shouldn't worry, there is nothing brown or not beautiufl about Costa Rica, no matter which month you come.
Like Suzie2 mentioned, Arenal and Manuel Antonio are a great combination for first timers, but they are usually combined with a couple of days in the Central Valley as well (depending on your flight schedule, you may need to stay near San Jose/airport for the first and last night).
A logical itinerary would look something like this:
night 1 - near San Jose/airport
Day 1 - drive to Arenal (3-4 hours). Enjoy the hot springs, take a hike and hope to see the lava at night!
Day 2 - Enjoy the area, there is plenty to do.
Day 3 - drive south to Manuel Antonio. The drive is very possible in one day (6-7 hours), but you may choose to stop half way, in the Central Valley, and not do it all in one day.
Day 4-6 Manuel Antonio, the national park is wonderful (beautiful beaches, lots of animals), and the area is very lively with a lot to do (read older posts about the area). You may have to return to SJ area the night before you fly back.
Day 7 - bye bye Costa Rica.... Until next time...
Poogie, Costa Rica looks like a small country, but it takes time to get from one place to the other, and the secret to a good trip is planning it logically, and not trying to do too much in a short time. Another thing you need to think about, is what kind of transportation you are going to use (rent a car, shuttle services, private transfers etc.).
Feel free to write me directly with any more questions or for help.
Pura Vida,
Neta Talmor
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Old Feb 29th, 2004, 02:11 PM
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You will miss alot of the Costa Rican culture and history if you skip San Jose. I also agree it would be a nightmare of a bustle to try and spend time at both coasts. Costa Rica is always green, not a concern. I tend to travel to one location as my home base so I don't have to drag all my stuff around. I much prefer the Pacific coast, specifically the Guanacaste region, ie Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Playa Languosta etc.
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Old Feb 29th, 2004, 02:23 PM
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trrtrix,
You and I have much in common. I LOVE Guanacaste! Somehow, it is almost like a separate country, no? And you and I may be 2 of just a few persons who think Tamarindo is pretty neat. . .even though I am sure it has changed drastically over the years. I still like it there!
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Old Mar 1st, 2004, 10:08 PM
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Thank you for all your responses. I believe I am honing in on what our vacation is going to look like.
2 days Central Valley, Lankester Gardens, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Cafe Brit coffee plantation.
3 days Monteverde, Windsurfing, Canopy Tours, Arenal, Hot Springs
4 days Hanging out at the Pacific Coast Beaches: Now here is my dilemma, do we stay at Manuel Antonio as you have suggested or do we stay at Playa Montezuma or Malpais for a little more R&R? We like nice Hotels and don't mind lot's of people and at the same time we like a little privacy and a smaller hotels. So we could go either way on this. What are your reasons for choosing Manuel Antonio over the Guanacaste province? Also, which ones is more breathtaking beautiful?
Thank you,
Poogie
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 02:52 AM
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I would suggest Manuel Antonio, it is absolutely beautiful, and there are lots of nice, smaller hotels for your private time. There is so much to do here. New this year is a reef snorkel tour. If you sit on the beach, the owner will personally come by and tell you about it. I haven't done it yet, but it sounds nice.
I agree with the other posters, you may want to go ahead and plan the 10 days right from the start, I guarantee you will leave wishing you had more days, and you will return. You can always come back to see other parts of the country, and every trip, you will leave wishing you had a few more days, Have fun. Walt
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 06:39 AM
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Save Malpais for another time. The time and energy it takes to get there would take up too much of your valuable vacation time. There are easier and very wonderful places. . .go with MA!
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 11:38 AM
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You mentioned 3 days Monteverde, windsurfing, hots springs etc. It may have just been a slight error on your part typing in the places or it could have been a common misconception of the Monteverde/Arenal areas. You would be surprised at how many people think they are right next to each other and can be easily traveled back and forth to. I would just skip Monteverde this trip and just go to Arenal.
For day trips out of San Jose you can do some combo packages. Doka coffee plantation, Poas, La Paz and the Sarapiqui are frequently lumped together now. Doka coffee is my favorite. Quite a few people have given less than favorable reviews of the Cafe Britt tour due to its high cost. The Lankester gardens are interesting to see (the plants are from all over the world not just CR) and can be combined with the Basilica in Cartago as well as Irazu volcano. There is also a San Jose city highlight tour. Fortunately for me, my flights are such that I never have to stay in the city unless I want to which I do every 2-3 years just to keep in touch with that part of the CR culture.
I don't think to suggest the city very often unless people specifically ask about it because to me the real beauty is outside the city in the small towns and hotels where most of the day trips take you anyway. It is fun once in awhile to plunk my husband down with a beer and a newspaper in front of the Gran hotel while I go window shopping. Just sitting there people watching can be very interesting.
There are several day trips from Arenal also such as Cano Negro and white water rafting.
Manuel Antonio area will offer more than you could possibly do.
You will definitely find yourself wishing you had just a little more time.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 12:00 PM
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Shillmac, I too really like the Guanacaste area. It is very different from the rest of the country in terms of the difference in the forests and the landscape. Except for Flamingo and Conchal beaches I haven't spent much time on the coast there because I am not into the more surfer scene. I do know now, thanks to Ally, that there are some quieter beach areas that I may try to get to before even those are overrun. I hope they don't put more roads into that area before I can get there.
You are right in that there have been lots of changes over the years that you, as a relatively new traveler to Costa Rica, haven't seen. Even I am still considered a new traveler there even after 12 years and wish I could have gotten there just a little sooner. There have been several times that I, like many other longer time travelers, have been thinking about expanding out to Nicaragua and Panama where it is still much less overrun by tourists. Then I think of those wonderful Ticos and think maybe I will keep going to CR and if I have time visit the other places. This year we saw a little bit of Nicaragua, next year it will be a little bit of Panama but it will always be a lot of Costa Rica.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 12:18 PM
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You will have the best of everything when you have a little (or not so little) home in Costa Rica and can travel out from there. Doesn't that sound like the perfect plan? You know, I just need more $$$$$!! Why does that always get in the way of what I want to do? I read about what Tamarindo was like 20 years ago, and oh, how I wish I could have seen it. The closest we have come to experiencing that I think (or I thought at the time) was a couple of years ago in Tambor. Even though the big Barcelo resort and a couple of other very popular hotels are there, the little town of Tambor itself was SO delightful. Now they are parceling off all these lots for big housing developments and I can't help but think how paradoxical it is. We want to experience Costa Rica so much (as visitors) that we end up messing up the very things we go there to see! What bothers me most it the Ticos (many of them) with whom I talk don't seem to mind what is happening there as long as it puts food on their table and money in the bank. During my homestay in San Joaquin, I developed SUCH as huge respect for the Ticos, their outlook on life, the sanctity of the family, etc. Sure made me see things differently.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 12:45 PM
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My first homestay in San Joaquin was a real eye opener also. I really came to realize in a hurry how little I really needed to get by. My daughter had one heck of a garage sale after I got home and started tossing stuff that year! It will definitely be a little house. CR is more about outside than inside. I already have it partly designed and there won't be a lot of permanent walls just a lot of folding doors if I feel I need something. It will have a large open to the outdoors kitchen and living area. Rustic will be the key word. Flowers everywhere. Someday........
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 12:50 PM
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We definitely have a lot in common. I ran into a young lady who works in the restaurant with my daughter. She spent 9 months in C. R. doing a homestay university biology program(same as Shannon Martin--in fact she was with her the night she was murdered in Golfito). Quite an interesting story. . .but I'm rambling. Her comment was : "I'd rather have a little shack on the mountain in Costa Rica than a huge mansion anywhere else"! I thought the statement quite profound! Did you say you liked the Turrialba area?
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Old Mar 2nd, 2004, 07:19 PM
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Yes we do like the Turrialba area. Not too many gringos in the little towns around there and there are lots of beautiful birds. It can be a bit rainier but that just makes it greener.
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