Costa Rica or Hawaii for family vacation?

Jun 21st, 2005, 09:10 AM
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Costa Rica or Hawaii for family vacation?

We are a family of 5, kids ages 14, 12 and 9. My husband and I are "vacation incompatible." He HAS to do everything there is to do and see everything there is to see. I like for there to be a lot to do, but I also like some down time.

I was thinking that either Hawaii or Costa Rica might provide this type of vacation experience...some hiking time, some beach time, some doing nothing time.

What do you think? (Probable time for the trip: mid-March).
missypie is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 12:07 PM
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I'm the mom of 2, 18 and 15, and we've been to Costa Rica once (going again this winter), and Hawaii several times since we have family there, visiting all the major islands. For my money, I'd go to CR. It is MUCH cheaper and you see a ton of wildlife. The ocean is warmer, and it's a shorter flight (we live in Michigan). If you ask my kids their favorite vacations, it's between Costa Rica and Turkey. But I'm sure you'll hear from plenty who recommend Hawaii, it's got better snorkeling with more in the way of white sand beaches. Either one would make for a fabulous vacation, with plenty of options for different interests.

rickandpat is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 12:09 PM
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Well, although I'd like to go, I haven't been to Hawaii. But I can say CR definitely has a good mix of the activities you want. The wildlife you can see there is a big draw (especially for kids, I'd think!). And it's probably cheaper than going to Hawaii!
allison04 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 12:10 PM
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You really can't go wrong with either of them.

We have gone to Costa Rica 3 times and Hawaii once (Kauai), all the trips with our daughter when she was between the ages 6 and 9. We liked Kauai but Costa Rica has a very special place in our hearts.

Hawaii is more developed than Costa Rica. There is much greater variety and abundance of flora and fauna in Costa Rica than Hawaii. I also felt that Hawaii was just not exotic enough (with KMart and McDonalds around every corner). Hawaii has better snorkeling, better roads, access to familiar conveniences etc.
Both will provide a variety of activities for the whole family: hiking, viewing an active volcano, beach time, relaxation by the pool, so it really depends on how comfortable you are traveling abroad to a fairly poor and less developed country versus spending your vacation in the US.
Iza is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 03:02 PM
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Living Texas, I've vacationed in Mexico a few times and haven't enjoyed it. I don't like having to bargain over the cab fare or worry about the water. Is traveling in CR similar to traveling in Mexico?
missypie is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 03:35 PM
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Having only traveled in the border towns of Mexico and Cancun, I am not the best to make this observation - But - no I would not at all compare the two.

As for cab fare, at the airport cab fares are set. Other places are typically set also. We have never found this to be a problem.

As for bargaining with street vendors, funny but we do not consider this in CR, like we do in the Carib or Mex.

Drinking water is safe in CR.
dfarmer is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 03:41 PM
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No surprise that CR is winning on the latin america board, and Hawaii is ahead on the US board... same question!
suze is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 03:42 PM
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missypie, not that they are the same place but if you did not enjoy Mexico, I think Hawaii might be a better choice for your family.
suze is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 06:49 PM
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Actually, we feel very at home in Costa Rica in a way that we never have in Mexico. The standard of living is higher, and we enjoy and appreciate the experience of another culture. I can't even see how anyone could compare Mexico to Costa Rica.

We've never bartered for anything there. We don't haggle with the taxi drivers--their prices are fair for the most part. I could count on one hand the number of times we've been approached by anyone asking for anything--and we've spent a total of close to 4 months there by now. But I remember being bothered on more than one occasion by people asking for hand-outs the one week we spent in Hawaii. I think that happens wherever there are tourists, but I'm still saying it is extremely rare in Costa Rica.

I've run into one person out of literally hundreds who thought Costa Rica was only so-so, and this person was there for 10 days and visited about 8 locations. Small wonder he wasn't impressed--he was on the road the entire time!

Your comment "I like some down time" is important, because Costa Rica, while filled with many exciting activities, is a great place for down time. You can do as much or as little as you like. Slowing down and enjoying the beauty around you is the essence of "pura vida"--enjoying life Tico style!
shillmac is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 05:27 AM
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I've traveled to Mexico many times and don't think it is at all like Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is called The Hawaii of Latin America for a reason. As others have stated Hawaii is more expensive and more built up.

Kauai is my favorite Hawaiin island. The Big island reminds me of South Florida or Los Angeles. I personally prefer Costa Rica over Hawaii. I find the people in Costa Rica to be friendlier and as Iza said Costa Rica is more exotic.

Shillmac summed it up best with "Slowing down and enjoying the beauty around you is the essence of "pura vida"--enjoying life Tico style!"

surfexec is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 06:34 AM
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Clearly my reply was not accurate. Because I dearly love several places in Mexico and visit often it is hard for me to imagine the negative that missypie expressed. And I have not been to Costa Rica. I guess I was thinking of the fact of Spanish speaking country and central american-ish locations.

Compared to traveling to Hawaii which is technically within the US, same money, same language, etc.
suze is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 06:43 AM
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Thanks, everyone!

I'd feel better about CR if my Spanish was better.

As for traveling in Mexico, I've only hit the big tourist spots (Cancun, Telum, the border towns.) I have a couple of friends who speak good Spanish and they've traveled throughout Mexico with their famlies and have had a great time.
missypie is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 06:58 AM
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I've been to both. We had no problem with the language in CR. Getting around was no problem either but we had a driver. Costa Rica isn't exactly known for its beaches the way Hawaii is. Either destination would provide plenty to do for the active ones in your family. It will be very(!) hot in CR in mid-March whereas March is one of the cooler months in Hawaii. For me, the decision would be based on how long you have. If it was one week, I'd do CR - if two weeks, Hawaii. However, you could easily do two weeks in CR.
Craig is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 07:49 AM
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Here on the west coast, airfare to Hawaii is a bit cheaper than to CR most of the time but its more expensive to stay in Hawaii, at least for now. I do feel that there are getting to be more "high end" places to stay in CR than in the past and of course prices are up accordingly. CR is always going to be a bit more of an adventure due to its being a foreign country and different language but the climate is very similar. I have been to both places multiple times and have never had a bad experience until I got home and had to pay for it! Good luck and have fun!
dncee11 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 03:28 PM
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LOL! So true, Dave!
shillmac is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 04:24 PM
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missypie, Please do not judge all of Mexico by your negative experiences in border towns and Cancun. That just ain't fair ;-)
suze is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2005, 06:04 PM
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tell me you didn't find Tulum amazing in Mexcio?!?
It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, perhaps only exceeded by the lakes in Austria or the Swiss Alps...
(always have to stick for Mexico !)
Little_Man is offline  
Jun 25th, 2005, 05:54 PM
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I've been to Hawaii about a dozen times and just returned from my second trip to CR. Between the 2 I would say hands down CR, especially for kids in your age range. I am probably like your husband while you are very much like my girlfriend. There are no problems with doing your own thing.

Two things to note: In Hawaii, even though you are on American soil you are treated like a tourist. In CR, at least away from the resorts, you are treated like neighbors, or even family. At one stop on the way from Flamingo to Arenal (on Pan Am one just N of Las Canas) we stopped at roadside bar/cafe and being unable to communicate effectively, were led back to the kitchen to pick out our meals. Three massive platters inclusinf seperate salads and breads totaled to $11 US.

The other thing about Hawaii id the tremendous number of people and tourists... everywhere. You will see tourists at some of the larger resort towns but a lot of them are mixed in with Costa Rican vacationers as well. In the long run it doesn't seem as if you are an outsider.

cabana_boy is offline  
Jun 26th, 2005, 08:54 AM
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I've been to Costa Rica, Mexico and Hawaii and find great things about each. Hawaii is lovely for its beaches, good roads and lovely landscapes. What makes Costa Rica the winner for me are: *unbelievable interaction with nature--biodiversity of plants, animals, landscape, all right there, all within one vacation, right next to you. Hawaii is an island, so just doesn't have that mind-blowing diversity, and definitely not the animals, birds and butterflies. *Friendly people. Yeah, you get comfortable American service in Hawaii, but no children blowing you kisses as you drive by them on the road. If you haven't done Costa Rica, you gotta check it out!
snorkelluvn is offline  
Jun 26th, 2005, 05:57 PM
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Like some of the others, I've been to both. Last summer we were in CR and my 15 yr. old was in his glory. We spent some down time at the beach, but the rainforest, wildlife and "canopy rides" were fabulous for him. We did sightsee a lot in Hawaii too, and I can still smell those wonderful leis, but I don't think my 15 yr old would have had half the fun there. He came back eager to tell his friends how he rafted in the jungle and went swinging through the trees! Joyce
trevorjoyce is offline  

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