Costa Rica Beach Vacation with 2 teen daughters

Old Jul 14th, 2009, 06:58 PM
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Costa Rica Beach Vacation with 2 teen daughters

My wife and I and our 2 teen daughters (16 and 17) are looking to take a getaway trip to Costa Rica. We are only able to get away for a week in August. We want mostly a beautiful beach at the resort but don't want casinos or a big night life. Mostly things to do such as swimming, snorkeling, horseback riding, etc. and other tours than could be arranged. I think the areas I like are either the Northern beaches of Panama to Conchal or Manuel Antonio. I do worry about all the walking steep inclines in Manuel Antonio as my wife has a bad knee. Should I consider the all-inclusives? I would like to get a hotel and flight package but I have seen some good villas at Beuna Vista Villas in Manuel Antonio. I have seen a few on line agencies such as VacationsToGo.com and VacationsCostaRica.com, any thoughts on these? Thank you in advance for any help.
Dave
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Old Jul 14th, 2009, 08:27 PM
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I think you are on track with Buena Vista Villas. We love these small villas and casas. I have stayed there myself, as have a lot of folks that post here. I have also sent them a lot of guests. Never a negative, always positive reviews.

They are offering a free night in August. I think it is buy three, get a fourth free. Turns this into a great deal.

They have a private beach at the bottom of the hill. There is a shuttle that will run your wife up and down the hill. There are some steps in the units, but nothing out of the ordinary. You can let them know about your wife's knee, and request one that is the easiest to get to.

There is no benefit in buying a package that includes airfare. There are some unbeleivable deals on the net for air and hotels. But once you read the fine print and add the fees and taxes, the airfares are usually not that great of a deal. I found a deal on the net recently, that offered three nights with air, for $399.00 per person. Once I added the taxes and fees, and backed out the true price of the hotels, the price worked out to be $200 more than if I purchased airfare on Orbitz and just booked the hotels and transfers.

Your best bet is to buy your airfare at one of the major suppliers, like Orbitz or Travelocity.com. I have been in the industry for almost twenty years, and that is how I buy my own airfare. Then seek out your best deal for a land package.

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

Warm Regards,
Pat Hewitt
Travel Professional
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Old Jul 15th, 2009, 06:08 PM
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Actually, I like Mot Mot and the Panorama too. If the availability is there, these are great choices. But they are one of a kind properties, so getting in is sometimes tough. I know that I my own clients have taken up a good hunk of time in August in the Mot Mot!

But again, BVV is offering that free night in August. So that makes it a great choice. These units are a tad more upscale too.

Mot Mot, Panorama, Tulemar Bungalows, and Buena Vista Villas all share the same 33 acre property. Mot Mot was actually the prototype for the first units that Buena Vista Villas built.

What many folks don't know, is that all of the units at both of these properties are individually owned investment units. In fact the locals still refer to Tulemar beach as "Doctor's Beach", because it was a group of doctors from San Jose who started the whole thing. They are managed by a separate entity as hotel units.

They have gone through different management changes over the years. As of today (July 15), both Buena Vista Villas and Tulemar Bungalows are under the same management group. Confused yet? I am still waiting to see how it all works out.

I am not a great fan of all inclusives in Costa Rica. Not that there is anything wrong with that, if that is how you like to travel. But there is no such thing as a free lunch, and that is never truer than when you are talking about an all inclusive. Just because the food is free, doesn't mean that you aren't paying for it one way or another.

The local food in Costa Rica is safe and very inexpensive. I would rather take my chances on some ceviche at a roadside soda, or a tuna steak in a local restaurant, than sample the rubber chicken at the all inclusive buffet!

If you ever watch the folks like Anthony Bordain or Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel, you will see that they devote a lot of time to local food. Sure, part of this is that Bordain is a chef. But I think that exploring local food is such an important part of the travel experience. It is just part of the culture. I would rather get out into the community, and check out the local cuisine anytime.

Sorry this ran long.

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

Warm Regards,
Pat Hewitt
(Travel professional)
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Old Jul 16th, 2009, 08:49 AM
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We planned an 8 day trip to CR last August and it was wonderful. There is something for everyone. I travelled with my husband and 2 daughters ages 19 & 24.
We flew into San Jose and a driver from Eclipse Tours met us and drove us to Arenal ( a 4 hour ride). We stayed at Arenal Manoa which was a very nice resort with a great view of the volcano, although we did not see the volcano at night due to rain.

We booked our excursions through the hotel. We packed a lot into one day. We started with being picked up at our hotel at 7:30 am by Jose and his driver Fernando. Jose toured us through the Hanging Bridges which was a 2 hour hike thru the rain forest. We spotted sloths, monkeys, blue jean dart frog and plants and flowers and so many things. You definitely need a guide for this tour.
Our next stop was La Fortuna waterfall. We climbed down many "stairs" to get to this awesome site. We were rewarded for this by swimming in the pool beneath the falls...priceless!
Our next stop was a terrific lunch at the Luna Grille.
After lunch we went to Arenal Park to hike for 2 hours around the volcano. A beautiful view of Arenal Lake and some wildlife was seen. By 3:30pm this place was way too crowded, so was not as enjoyable as our other 2 destinations.
We ended our day from 5:45-9:30pm at the Tabacon Springs to soothe our weary and achy bodies. We arrived at dusk, so we could not really appreciate the property and it was pretty crowded. We had a dinner reservation at 8:30pm at Tabacon Buffet and then our driver picked us up at 9:30pm. The total cost per person for this combination tour was $150. These were all areas we wanted to explore but we had a limited time in Arenal, so this suited our needs.

The following day we went to Sky Trek/Tram at 9:45 am for the 10:30 appointment which was an exhilarating experience. The rest of the day we relaxed poolside having seen everything we wanted before we moved on to Manuel Antonio.

Once again we were picked up by Eclipse Tours at 9am for the long ride to MA at 2pm. We stayed at the beautiful Parador Hotel for 4 nights with its beautiful view and infinity pool and complimentary shuttle to MA Park. The MA Park beaches are beautiful with abundant wildlife. We also did the Naranjo River White Water Rafting trip with Iguana Tours (Class 3&4)...very adventureous.

On our last day in MA we were picked up at 2pm for the 4hr trip to San Jose Marriott at the airport to prepare for our early morning flight. The Marriott has a complimentary shuttle to the airport in addition you can save time and confusion by prepaying your departure tax at the hotel.
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Old Jul 16th, 2009, 10:05 AM
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Buena Vista Villas does get lots of good reviews.

Considering your wife's situation, I thought I'd at least mention that we spent a week one Aug at Si Como No in MA. We got some very good rates for a jr suite and really liked the resort - great staff and very good food. We went the month before I had some serious back surgery so my mobility was likewise quite limited. I found getting around the property very easy and it had very few stairs. The setting was beautiful. It didn't have a private access to the beach, but did have hourly free shuttle to the entrance to the park, which we found very convenient.
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Old Jul 16th, 2009, 10:07 AM
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PS - should have mentioned that we had 2 teenagers with us and they loved the hotel and MA. Lots of activities and the staff was great with reservations for different tours.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2009, 06:36 PM
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Thank you all so much. I have decided to book the Casa Gema de Bali Villa in Tulemur Gardens, MA. We are very excited based on all your comments. Pat, thank you for the background of Tulemur Gardens.

Any recommendations on getting down to MA from San Jose? Anyone taken the flight? Also a good hotel near the airport for the night before we leave?

Thanks again, Dave
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Old Jul 22nd, 2009, 06:40 PM
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We stayed at Xandari the day before our flight out and just loved it. Beautiful property with views of the central valley, waterfalls on the property, nice open air restaurant with good food, nice pools and hot tubs - about 20 minutes from the airport.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2009, 09:50 AM
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Re transport - under your circumstances, might consider hiring a driver between MA and SJO. We rented a car for the flexibility, but you really don't need one in MA. Several people have recommended different drivers. You could do a search on here and should be able to get the info.

As to the flights, some people have pointed out that during rainy season there can be delays due to weather. Also, the planes are small, so they're VERY strict on luggage weights - if that makes a difference to you.
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