Costa Rica--it's our first time. Please help. : )

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Apr 1st, 2005, 07:05 PM
  #1
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Costa Rica--it's our first time. Please help. : )

Hello, I have been reading through the posts on this site and really appreciate all of the great tips I have received. My husband and I are in desperate need of a vacation this August and we are looking into traveling to Costa Rica. Quite truthfully, we are just overwhelmed with so many things and researching/planning all of this is a bit intimidating.

I found a tour company that seems to lay it all out for you (www.latinamerica4less.com) and the price is actually pretty reasonable. A friend just did a different trip through them and really liked it and that is how I find out about it. The tour I am thinking about is called "Eco Adventure" and involves the following: 1 night in San Jose, 2 nights in Monteverde Cloud Forest, 3 nights in Tamarindo, and 2 night in Manuel Antonio National Park. The hotels are all at the "superior" category and the price of about $1,000 pp includes RT air from NYC, hotel stay, transportation between the areas, taxes, etc.

I've never been to Costa Rica before--my husband and I were drawn to it as it seems the perfect balance of beaches, relaxation, and fun adventures and exploration.

I was just wondering, in your expertise, is this a good deal and itinerary? I usually love the plan all of the details of my own trip and complete the research but am feeling overwhelmed right now and the thought of having it planned for us is alluring. Any thoughts and help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your help, Christina


allthingsbb is offline  
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Apr 1st, 2005, 09:26 PM
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Tons of tour operators to work with. Most very good. Factor out the air fare and get down to what is really provided. In other words, do your own air and let someone do the land portion I have used gaialinktours and would recomend whole heartly. Check out yourself. Tons of great reviews on this company. Do a Google search & fodors & frommers. Have been to CR many times. Forget the Pkg tours and plan what you want to do. GaiaLink will help you plan whatever you need & reccomend only what you want. Great country and great people.

Skip SJ(unless because of flight). Add in Arenal Volcano. Tamardindo is cool, maybe not 3 nights unless you surf or fish. MA is great place. My suggestion for 1st time trip on days you have available is Arenal & Manuel Antonio,maybe Monteverde in bewteen. Gives you the best of both world's. All are awesome. Honestly, you are going to love this place, just can't do all at once. I try to do something I've liked before and then someplace I haven't been to before. Getting ready for 4th trip and I have not hit the tip of the iceberg. Hope this helps
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Apr 2nd, 2005, 04:15 AM
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I don't think the price is all that bad. I did a quick add up of the 4 hotels & transfers between them (using interbus) and the total comes to approx $1,400.

My concerns are a few though....transfers between all these places (except MA to SJO) are all approx 5 hours each, so factor that in. I think 3 days in Tam is a little much IMO, especially since it's at the expense of only getting 2 days (or really only 1 1/2) in MA. I think for 7-10 days 2 destinations seems to work best. Don't get overwhelmed. I have used this board so much for my last trip & my upcoming trip and it has helped so much. So, although I don't think it's a bad price, I think if you pick 2 locations to visit you can price it out for the same or maybe even less.
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Apr 2nd, 2005, 04:23 AM
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I agree with TXtrav1 suggesting Arenal & Manuel Antonio for your first visit--one week right? We enjoy booking ourselves, but we didn't do it the first time we went.

Another option for you to look at is

www.costaricapackage.com

Neta Talmor at La Finca Que Ama put it together for 1st timers. I've broken it down and the value (bang for your buck) is excellent. It does require 10 days.

If you do decide to go ahead on your own, Arenal-Monteverde-Manuel Antonio is a great plan for 8 nights.
try to arrange your flight so that it arrives early in the afternoon--is that possible from NYC? Remember that, if you have a late arrival and early departure, you will need to stay first and last nights near the airport. That would leave you 6 nights, in which case you need stick with only 2 locations for sure.

Don't worry about it at all--you know where to go, hotels (there are some very good moderately priced hotels at Arenal and MA both--especially in August), cars, private transfers (whichever you prefer--both work great) are easy to book. You'll have a blast--it's a gorgeous place and no way will you be disappointed!

Hotels to look into: Arenal Paraiso
Manuel Antonio--Costa Verde, Villas Nicolas

Good luck!
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Apr 2nd, 2005, 05:14 AM
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I like the high end Bosque de Paz/ Punta Islita package. Seems like value as it includes food-

I have not been to BDP nor have i found many reviews but PI is top notch
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Apr 2nd, 2005, 05:57 AM
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Thank you so much! I went to bed at about 1:00 am and just had the extreme pleasure of waking up to your wonderful replies! I really appreciate the advice and time you took to respond. We are getting so excited about this trip!!
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Apr 2nd, 2005, 06:19 AM
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all of this looks wonderful! thank you. one more question, if we are to rent a car (which my husband is interested in doing) is it pretty easy and well-marked to get around? thank you!!! : )
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Apr 2nd, 2005, 10:19 PM
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For 1st time, do private transfers if you can handle the cost which should be fairly close to what you would spend for car rental. Vacation is about de-stressing. Driving for 1st time in CR is fun, but does carry stress due to not being familiar with geography and roads. Keep in mind if you drive yourself, it will take longer since you are in an unknown enviroment. If you are like me, then I am sure you want to maximize your time in each destination you want to visit rather than burning daylight behind a windshield. You'll see just as much, only get to your destination faster if you use a driver
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Apr 3rd, 2005, 04:23 AM
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We rented a car and drove ourselves. It was suprisingly easy and the people are incredible helpful even those that spoke very little English. They were great at understanding what we were looking for. For us, it's about learning more about the country and learning our way around. We thought it was fun, but it does take up a lot of time. There's just so much out there to experience. The upside to having a driver is that they will point things out that you might otherwise miss and it's stress free. If you do decide to rent, get a road map before you go. You can do Fodor's search for the map everyone likes the best and get familiar with your routes before you go. We got our hotels to email directions which were very helpful. If you want to rent a car it's very doable.
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Apr 3rd, 2005, 06:40 AM
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Map is by Berndtson & Berndtson. Can get at Barnes & Noble. It is the best map
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Apr 3rd, 2005, 07:04 AM
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Agree with TXtrav1--we, too, enjoyed navigating around on our own. Yes, we had to (and still do) stop and ask directions occasionally. We consider it an opportunity and enjoy the increased communiction. I don't think we spend THAT much time trying to figure things out, and I certainly wouldn't call it a waste.

The B&B map is excellent, and it has gotten us around (with few problems) during many visits to CR. We have found that some roads/places are rather well marked and others not.

Bottom line: it all depends on you. As much as I like visiting with people and practicing espanol, the idea of a private driver doesn't appeal to me or my husband. We prefer some drive time alone and don't mind experiencing the ups and downs of it. Others, as you can tell from reading the various threads, enjoy being driven and shown about. You'll know what will make you most comfortable--that is what you need to do!
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Apr 3rd, 2005, 07:28 PM
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I also recommend Gaialink. I didn't like prepackaged itineraries, so went through Gaialink, told him where we wanted to go, what we wanted to do and he got it all together for us. We did 10 days and went to Arenal, Monteverde and MA. We booked our own airfare. Although we used private transfer arranged by Gaialink, he can also book your rental car for you. The nice thing is that you can tell Ralph approximately what you want to spend and he can arrange everything for you within your price range. Give them a try.

Sara
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Apr 6th, 2005, 08:14 PM
  #13
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Thank you so much for this information! I really appreciate all of your help and the wonderful suggestions. I think we are going to use private transfers this time but hopefully on visit number two, we will navigate the roads. (oh, and GaiaLink sounds wonderful!)
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