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mavip Aug 22nd, 2012 01:34 PM

Costa Rica
We are two active seniors who want to go to Costa Rica in January or February. I have friends who took a Caravan tour and loved it. They did though say that it was VERY Rustic and a lot of time on a bus. We have traveled independently for years even in Europe.
Will we be able to drive in Costa Rica and see all there is to see by ourselves? Is there another tour company that is not as "rustic" or is the whole island rustic.? Are there private guides that would be better than an arranged tour? Would be grateful for all opinions.

volcanogirl Aug 22nd, 2012 02:05 PM

We always plan all of our trips ourselves. The entire country is not rustic; there are some very upscale properties if that's what you're looking for. The roads can be rough in some areas though. You can drive, take the Interbus shuttle, hire a private driver, or fly on Sansa or Nature Air - lots of good options. CR isn't an island though. Our favorite area is the Arenal area. Check out The Springs Resort and Spa, Nayara, and the Lost Iguana to see some of the more upscale properties. Silencio del Campo is a little more affordable and also popular. Other areas that are popular are Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, Tortuguero, the Guanacaste beaches, and for more off the grid the Osa Peninsula. Explore those a little bit to see if they interest you. We usually book guides for individual tours once we reach a spot - for example in the Arenal area, you can use Sunset Tours or Desafio.

Pat_Hewitt Aug 22nd, 2012 02:53 PM

You can also arrange for a tour that includes private transfers. You can still travel independently, you are just not driving. It usually works out to be about the same price as a car rental.

This way, you set your own schedule. The drivers leave you at your destination, and pick you up a few days later when it is time to move on.

While you are at each destination, you will find that just about any day tour you want to take offers door to door transportation. You may have to take a few cab rides to restaurants, but this usually isn't that expensive.

I usually recommend this option for my senior travelers. These are folks that don't want to drive, but want to stay independent. You won't have to deal with the "cattle buses" that the big tour operators use.

I hope this helps! Let me know if I can offer more advice.

Warm Regards,

Pat Hewitt
Travel Professional

Kinkazote Aug 23rd, 2012 07:13 AM


"...or is the whole island rustic.?"

Costa Rica isn't an island. Make sure this is where you think you want to go. Caravan tours to Costa Rica advertise busloads of 30 to 44 passengers. That keeps the cost down. You should inquire of your friends what they mean by "rustic." Or, look on Caravan's website which lists the hotels used, and see if these see "rustic" in a negative sense according to your understanding of the word.

We usually plan our trips to Costa Rica (looking forward to number 10 next May) and it really is a breeze to do so. However, one of our recent trips was on an OAT tour (20 passengers max--quite manageable) and we found it to be an excellent value, and it filled in a lot of the sites missing from our previous trips.

To my wife and me, the thing that makes us repeat travelers to CR is first the climate and then the sheer joy of being in one or two places soaking up nature, sun, breezes, and sights. Not all of CR is beauty and nature and cute animals and sweet people. Roadsides and urban sprawl can be just plain ugly.

Driving yourself also means finding your way and losing sightseeing time while managing the car--not to speak of the high potential of not finding your way more than once or having tire problems or having your bags stolen. (We never make the same mistake three times.) Leaving the transport to someone else--drivers in our case--transfers the potential grief to someone better able to deal with the consequences.

You can easily pick your hotels and arrange transport to the first one and then let each hotel get you a driver for the next leg. As pointed out, tours usually include transportation from your hotel.

The managed commercial tour operations can be useful, but Costa Rica is as much about being as it is about doing. It might be better to not try to see 15 locations in 10 days. Try 3 in that amount of time and then come back again for more.

Ticalady Aug 23rd, 2012 01:50 PM

I recommend Gray Line Costa Rica.

Cattail Aug 23rd, 2012 05:44 PM

What Kinkazote said. On all counts.

mavip Sep 8th, 2012 05:41 AM

Pat - we love your idea. would you be able to suggest a few private guides who could arrange to drive us. Also where would you go and stay if we have 10 days to spend in Costa Rica. Perhaps 3 different hotels. Thanks for your help.

volcanogirl Sep 8th, 2012 06:37 AM is a link to Pat's travel site if you want to contact him directly.

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