Costa Rica, first time travel,tour questions?

Old Jan 18th, 2004, 02:31 PM
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Costa Rica, first time travel,tour questions?

Hi, I am looking at visiting Costa Rica for the first time.It would be just a mother and daughter traveling alone, also we speak almost no Spanish. For these reasons I am thinking a tour would be a good idea for my first trip.We are considering a Globus tour that includes San Jose,with a city tour and Coffee factory.Two nights at Tortuguero, with canel cruise and aerial tram in Guapiles. Stay night in Sarapiqui. Next is two nights at Tilajai Resort close to Arenal volcano.Then from there it is back to San Jose. On the way back they visit Poas Volcano, and the town of Sarchi.Then on to San Jose where tour ends or you can take an extension to Manuel Antonio for 3 nights before returning home.

I am wondering what you all think of this itinery for a first trip? We have also been looking at Caravan tours. Does anyone know anything about this tour company? Also when would be the best time to go,weather wise and for wildlife viewing? Would like to see the green turtles laying eggs,but it looks like that would be the rainy season; Mid- July to Mid- October.Would we be better off to go at a different time? If so when?

Thanks,to all for any advice and info.
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Old Jan 18th, 2004, 03:06 PM
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Dear Dottie,
With a little more information, we may be able to help you more. If the idea of a tour doesn't suit you, perhaps you should consider some alternatives. Costa Rica, is actually very easy to travel and there is something for everyone (rented cars, shuttle buses, drivers, taxis, tours). Also, the people are extremely friendly. If I may ask, how old is your daughter? If she is a teenager, then you shouldn't worry at all. If she is younger, perhaps a tour is your best option, but there are many tours to choose from. I have never taken a tour myself, but I am sure other people will gladly recommend some to you.
Neta
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Old Jan 18th, 2004, 03:16 PM
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Hi Dottie,
What a great experience for you and your daughter! I'm actually traveling this July with my 19-year old son. (My third trip, his first.) Don't be intimidated by your lack of Spanish, Most of the people in Costa Rica that work in the tourism industry (hotels, restaurants, etc.) speak English. I would also highly recommend Lonely Planet's Costa Rica phrasebook or something similar. Ticos really appreciate it when you try to use even a little bit of Spanish.

I don't know anything about Globus Tours, but I did check out their website. It looks like a nice tour, but seems a little pricey to me. I have also looked at the Caravan tour (much more affordable), but I didn't care for the hotels they use. Have you checked out Costa Rica Expeditions? They are one of the top tour companies in Costa Rica and from what I've heard, their service is outstanding and they have their own lodges. They have several package tours you can select from or they will customize a tour package for you. They appear to me to be a better bargain than the Globus Tour. Do a search on this forum for feedback about CRE, particularly by Suzie2 as I know she has used them several times in the past. I will be using them for our Tortuguero leg when I travel to Costa Rica with my son this July.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2004, 11:24 AM
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Hi Dottie--my wife and I just got back from Costa Rica yesterday. We speak no Spanish. We did hire cars and drivers to get us around. We had no problems as we stayed in major tourist areas (Monteverde and Arenal). Everyone was helpful and friendly; guides spoke English well enough. A tour isn't necessary--you could do it on your own without much trouble--though there's nothing wrong with a tour if it fits your needs.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2004, 11:32 AM
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You will just love Costa Rica. I agree with many of the other posters; a tour really is not necessary. We booked our excursions through the hotel and found it to be much less expensive. All the excursions ended up being private tours for just my husband and I, or joined by only 1 other couple. Most of the guides speak english so we did not have a problem with the language barrier although a few Ticos were surprised we were from California and didn't know much spanish!

If you like nature/birds/hiking don't miss Bosque de Paz, a private rainforest reserve, and Carara. Both were incredible.

Joni
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Old Jan 22nd, 2004, 01:07 PM
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Hello,
I think the nights in san jose are a waste of time. Its a big, dirty city, and there are really no sights that are worth the time. I would suggest you shop several of the tour operators here in the country, some posted above and also try tico travel, we have had good experiences with them. If you really want to see the most diversity,I would go to Monteverde for one night, see the cloud forest, the night tour is supposed to be good as well, from there go to Arenal, I like Tabacon for a hotel there, possibly for 2 nights to get the best chance of seeing the volcano out of the clouds. I would take a day trip from Arenal down the coast to Manuel Antonio. Making sure to stop at the Tarcoles bridge to see the crocs on the way, and possibly stopping at a local resteraunt there to see the macaws in thier natural habitat. You can then decide it you want to go back and take one of the tours up the tarcoles to see more wildlife (easy from Manuel Antonio as a day trip). Once in Manuel Antonio you can see the park (use a guide), and if you like you could rent a car for a day and go south and check out Matapalo for lunch and then maybe down to Dominical, returning to Manuel Antonio the same night, or staying in Dominical. On teh way from San Jose to Monteverde you will get a chance to see all teh coffee you care to. Hope that helps, Walt
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Old Jan 22nd, 2004, 01:19 PM
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Thanks, to all for your help.I think I will look in to traveling on my own. I haven't taken a complete guided tour before, and am not sure how well I will like it.

Is there a time of year which would be best for traveling in the areas I have in mind? San Jose,Toruguero park, Arenal,Monteverde and Manuel Antonio parks are the places I am thinking of.Also are my chances good of seeing Sloth and Howler monkeys in these areas?

To: RufusTfirefly,

I would love to hear more about your trip. Are you going to do a trip report? Who did you use to set up your transportion around the area?

Again Thanks to all
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Old Jan 22nd, 2004, 06:11 PM
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Dear Dottie,
The best time to see tutels in Tortugero is mid July-mid November, so depending on the time you want to travel, you may want to consider skipping Tortugero.
In many of the beaches in the north (like Tamrindo) you can see howlers all year long.
Going to Manuel Antonio Park almost guarantees seeing sloths and white faced monkeys (sloths are hard to spot and a guide in MA can really be helpful, but not a must). Seeing the lava in Arenal is all about luck. I have been there 5 times and saw it 3, my boyfriend was there 6 and saw it 5, and we know someone that was there a dozen times and have never seen it! I think Monteverde is good visiting all year long, although the ride is harder during the wet season. I also recommend you go to Monteverde, only if you are coming for more than 9 nights, because it requires at least 2 nights to really enjoy, since the ride is very long and difficult.
Please don?t hesitate to write me directly if you need any more help or advice.
Pura Vida,
Neta
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Old Jan 22nd, 2004, 07:15 PM
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There is no reason why you couldn't contact a tour company just to have them help you arrange for your hotel reservations and transportation. Many of them have set tours but still offer custom itineraries. We used tour companies on many trips just for the ease of making the arrangments. I usually pretty much know where I want to go but am always open to suggestions. Day tours can easily be arranged at your hotel.
Sept and Oct are generally the lowest rainfall times for parts of the Caribbean. Oct is when they have a big festival because of this. Limon which is south of Tortuguero averages only about 5 inches in Sept. Unfortunately, the rest of the country is going to be pretty wet.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 05:10 AM
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We used a tour company, costarica411.com, to book our hotels and transportation (I thought CRE was too expensive given my other options). Looking back, I'm so glad I did this b/c it took a huge burden off my shoulders. Also, the agent was wonderfully helpful and informative.
We booked our tours individually once we got to our hotels. It's easier that way, and you're not locked into a schedule. I felt that seeing the country leisurely and at our own pace was really nice - also, I don't know if your tour will be with a big group of other people. I think that's always a bit of a disadvantage - what if you don't like them? =)
btw, we were in CR for 8 nights. Stayed at Arenal Paraiso, El Sapo Dorado and Luna Llena (in Tamarindo) and Hotel Santo Tomas. I enjoyed each place immensely. Good luck!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 11:36 AM
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I have to agree with everyone else. A tour is absolutely not necessary. My husband I booked our CR vacation using a travel agent, and we probably ultimately could have done it alone, but it is difficult to visualize the country's layout until you are actually there. I would suggest you use someone to help you book your accommodations and transfers, but don't go the group tour route. You may find yourself the only non-retirees on board! The travel agency I used is at this link, if you are interested in checking them out. Very personal service and reasonable prices.
http://www.travel-to-costarica.com
They have some pre-set itinerary suggestions, but they were accommodating enough to lengthen our stay and add in a final stop at Manuel Antonio Beach.
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