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Belize or Costa Rica?

Old Mar 4th, 2003, 01:28 PM
  #1  
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Belize or Costa Rica?

Considering a trip with my husband to one of these spots. Probably 7-10 days total. Would want to see as much wildlife (in natural settings) as possible, swim, do walks/hikes, stay in reasonably comfortable lodging with good food (doesn't have to be fancy). Looking at Chan Chich, Ek Tun, and Chaa Lodge in Belize, not sure about CR. With only 7-10 days, and given our requirements, I'd love recommendations from people who have been to both Belize and Costa Rica. Not sure which destination is best for our needs. We are coming from the West coast. Thanks!
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Old Mar 5th, 2003, 05:26 AM
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I can speak for Belize. We have the second longest barrier reef in the world for great diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, etc. The mainlan is about 70% jungle with a healthy animal population, numerous and impressive mayan ruins, great caving, horses, river kayaking and canoing, horses, hiking and birding.

I think Chaa Creek is one of the finest jungle lodges in the Central American region. For wildlife, Chan Chich might be the better of the 3 lodges. If oyu have time, visit both.
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Old Mar 6th, 2003, 11:46 AM
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A big factor is time of year. I wouldn't go to CR or Belize in the wet season. In CR wet season is roughly April to November. Not sure about Belize but wet season is probably reverse of that. Also, hurricane season may be something you want to consider if going to Belize (roughly June to October).
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Old Mar 6th, 2003, 03:41 PM
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Thanks for the input. Hope to get more!I've been doing lots of research on this board and elsewhere . . . now I'm considering one trip to Belize AND Costa Rica -- would that be overkill? It would probably be 14 nights total. Possible itinerary:
8 nights in CR -- 3 days hiking through Corcovado, 2 nights at Rara Avis, 2 nights at Almonds & Corals in Puerta Viejo or at Makanda by the Sea, plus one day/night for travel time
6 nights in Belize -- 3 nights at Chan Chich Lodge or Chaa Creek, then 2 nights on the beach in the Cayes? plus one day travel time

Does this seem redundant? I can't tell which country has the best beaches. I've been to Mexico many times (Pacific side only), Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, so I've seen many beautiful beaches (but am ready for more). I really want to see as much flora and fauna as possible on this trip, with perhaps two days on the beach to relax after all the hiking and activity. Any input is appreciated.
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Old Mar 6th, 2003, 07:54 PM
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I have been to both Belize and Costa Rica.
There are many fascinating things in Belize. The Mayan ruins are really neat and the islands are beautiful. It was fascinating seeing all the little tiny islands and being able to get out on them. The water is postcard pretty.
We had a wonderful Mayan guide while staying up in the mountains who took us to his home and made us feel very welcome. Chaa Creek area and Jaguar Paw are definitely places to look at.
Our beach time was spent in the Placencia area and we were appalled at the amount of trash washed up on the beach from people obviously just throwing things out of boats. The Ambergris Caye area is supposed to be better. I hope so. We prefer less traveled areas so chose Placencia.
After 10 days in Belize we were ready to leave and not go back. Over all we were not all that comfortable there. The roads were absolutely terrible. There was a lot more poverty than in Costa Rica and the people didn't seem to have a sense of purpose. It just felt to us like a country at odds with itself and with very little pride. My husband grew up spending several months out of the year in the jungles of south america so it was not a lack of comforts. The places we stayed in were very nice. We even have friends who ran a medical clinic there and love it.
Costa Rica on the other hand does not have the beautiful waters of the Caribbean even though one side is Caribbean and it does not have what you would call an old culture or true sense of history that you get with old ruins etc. What Costa Rica has is a middle class society that is more developed than most of the Central American countries. There is some poverty but over the years we have seen less and less. It is one of the cleanest countries in Central America and the people have a true sense of what is important and have a strong sense of pride, the environment, and community. They are well educated for the most part. Everyone is a friend or is a friend of a friend therefore also your friend. They seem to smile and enjoy life so much. Everyone is working hard to continue to improve the environment and have realized that preserving areas can be both beneficial to the environment and the economy at the same time. There are many people besides ourselves who say that they fell in love with the people just as much as the country. We have been going down there for over 10 years now except for one year when we went to Belize. We are still finding new and exciting places to visit and learn about. There are many many different eco systems depending on what side of the mountain or how high or how low that it will take years for us to finally feel like we have seen all that the country has to offer. By then we hope to be living there full time.
You can get to CR through Mexico City. It takes longer than going to Belize but IMO it is well worth the time and effort. Regarding the rainy season in CR. While it is considered the rainy season, July and August are called little summer and can be the prettiest time of year to go. There might be an afternoon shower on the Pacific side but that would be about it. The Caribbean side will be rainier.
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Old Mar 6th, 2003, 08:36 PM
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Regarding the places you were talking about for Costa Rica. The Osa Peninsula is my favorite place and is where you will see the most wildlife. Bosque del Cabo Lodge is a wonderful place and is on the point of the Pacific Ocean and the Gulfo Dulce. we spent several days there this year and we are thinking of going back in a couple of months. You can see everything there that you would see in Corcovado park but some of it you can see while hanging out in the pool.
If you still want to go to Corcovado Park and want to stay closer to the La Leona entrance in Carate there is the Corcovado Tent camp owned and run by one of the premier tour companies in Costa Rica (Costa Rica Expeditions). for a more upscale place Lookout Inn is very nice as is Luna Lodge. those three places are within walking distance of the Park Entrance...Lookout Inn and the tent camp are pretty much right on the beach, Luna is set back up in the forest on the carate river.. If you want to go into the park with a guide (highly recommended) you should let them know when making the reservations.
There are several other options in other areas such as La Paloma, Wilderness Adventure Camp, and Casa Corcovado in Drake Bay. Bosque del Rio Tigre in Puerto Jimenez. So many choices, so little time. We also spent time at Rara Avis. We were not happy with that place. The food was excellent but that is all I can say good about it. The ride/walk up (3hrs) to the lodge was a nightmare. There were about 16 of us and we ended up walking because the tractor ride was so dangerous because the tractor was trying to pull us over huge boulders. Even walking up the road was dangerous. People were slipping and falling the whole way. The trails were hard to walk on and we just plain didn't see much up there for all our trouble getting there.
We spoke to people who had just stayed at Almonds and Coral. They said it was okay but not any place that they would return to. That area is more Jamaican than anything and is much more depressed with the higher crime that goes along with that type of environment.
Makanda by the Sea is a beautiful place in Manuel Antonio. There are several very nice places there and lots of things to do like river rafting, fishing, hiking, swimming. Lots of Monkeys in the park as well as around many of the hotels.
The way travel is in CR it takes longer to get anywhere than it looks primarily because of the mountains and some of the roads just aren't very good once you get away from the more popular tourist areas. San Jose to Manuel Antonio has good roads but it still takes 4-5hrs. It is a long ride on the Pan Am highway to the Osa Peninsula. Most people fly down there.
With just 8 days I would not try to do more than 2 places if you want to include the Osa.
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Old Mar 7th, 2003, 07:16 AM
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There's already been a lot of good information posted. I'd add just a few comments. I've been going to Costa Rica for over 20 years and to Belize for a dozen and I've written a number of books on Belize.

What Belize offers that Costa Rica doesn't: great snorkeling and diving; Maya ruins; a true multicultural society; English (the official language) spoken most everywhere

What Costa Rica offers that Belize doesn't: great beaches (on the Pacific); surfing; truly spectacular mountain and volcanic scenery; great springlike climate (in the Central Valley); a fairly large and somewhat cosmopolitan capital city.

They both offer wonderful opportunities for birding, wildlife spotting, fishing and outdoor activities. Both have some terrific jungle lodges and some excellent beach resorts. Prices used to be a lot lower in Costa Rica, but they are similar now especially at the moderate and higher lodging and restaurants. Consumer prices for groceries and such are lower in Costa Rica. Costa Rica gets six or seven times as many international tourists as Belize, but in general it is better set up to handle them.

--Lan Sluder
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Old Mar 7th, 2003, 08:51 AM
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This is such great information -- thank you all for responding with such detailed postings. I definitely have some thinking to do!
I'll be sure to post a trip report no matter what I decide.
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Old Mar 7th, 2003, 05:05 PM
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Belize experts,
I've given myself until the end of the weekend to decide on a vacation for this summer. I bought a couple books on Belize, but I am skeptical that I will be able to plan a scuba-diving vacation there I can afford (10 days.) I am looking to dive in Glover's Reef Atoll and the other best dive sites. I would consider a live-aboard for a few days to take advantage of the best diving in the most remote places. But I also need ideas from where to base my vacation from. I am interested in lots of non-activities as well, like caving, kayaking, and visiting Mayan ruins. Any suggestions?

When I visited Costa Rica this past summer I had great success with an inexpensive native Costa Rican travel agent. Can anyone refer me to a good inexpensive Belize agent. I would be more than happy to arrange my own vacation. Any ideas? Thanks.

Jay
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