Costa Rica or Nicaragua?


Nov 12th, 2012, 09:29 PM
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Costa Rica or Nicaragua?

I am trying to plan a summer trip (Green Season) for my husband and I next year and have been considering Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I'd like to do a 10 day trip and stay within a budget of $4.5k, not including airfare but still get to see the beauty of Central America. At first, I was really leaning towards Costa Rica, but it appears that I might be able to enjoy many of the same things in Nica at substantially less cost....and with the benefit of seeing the beauty of Granada (I am a History major). We would definitely want to see the following, regardless of the country:

- cloud forest
- volcano area
- beach
- wildlife (i.e., birds, monkeys)
- hot springs/waterfalls

We have done rafting, kayaking, and zip-lining before so that is not a must-do for us. We are both certified scuba divers so that is definitely a possibility.

Also, while I don't want to skimp on budget hotels, I also don't want my entire budget to be eaten by hotel costs either. Also, I'm anticipating that it is perfectly fine to self-drive in both countries?

Thanks in advance for your advice and suggestions!
suzski is offline  
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Nov 13th, 2012, 03:46 AM
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We love Costa Rica. If you decided to go with CR, a combo trip of Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio would give you what you're looking for. We're wildlife lovers, and CR has amazing wildlife like monkeys, sloths, and great birding. Nicaragua would give you more in terms of history though if that's important to you. I don't think you'd find good SCUBA in either place. If that's important to you, I'd take a look at Belize - the underwater wildlife there is amazing, and they have a lot in the way of ruins plus you could take a day trip over to Tikal Guatemala to see the amazing ruins there.
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Nov 13th, 2012, 05:22 AM
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I've been to Costa Rica twice, but, both trips were over 10 years ago. It sounds as though things have changed a lot since, I read there was actually a Burger King in Arenal. Ugh.

It is a stunningly beautiful country though.

We just finished a two week trip to Nicaragua, we went to San Juan del Sur, which we liked; Ometepe Island, which we loved; Granada; which we also loved and Big Corn Island, which we didn't enjoy as much.

Nicaragua was much cheaper. We hiked some cloud forest at one of the volcanoes. Toured another volcano crater. Hiked to a stunning waterfall on Ometepe. Saw sloths, monkeys and birds.

Lots of people on horses, ox carts, horses pulling carts.

The most expensive hotel we stayed at was about $100.00. Most were much less. Food is cheap and excellent, as is rum and beer.
JeanH is offline  
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Nov 13th, 2012, 06:07 AM
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Jean, Arenal really hasn't changed that much. We go every year, and the Burger King is kind of an anomaly. There are no other US chains or hotels in that area. It still has amazing natural beauty, the lake, the volcano, wonderful adventure activities, etc.
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Nov 13th, 2012, 10:28 AM
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absolutely adored Costa Rica and their friendly people.. Nicaragua from what i've read is similar but not quite as safe. CR is the read deal!
tailsock is offline  
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Nov 13th, 2012, 11:28 AM
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volcanogirl, I'm glad to read that. Same thing in Negril, Jamaica, one lonely Burger King, not much else from the US, at least that I saw.
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Nov 13th, 2012, 11:48 AM
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We visited both counyries many times as my sister lived in CR for about 5 years and then for about 12 more in Nica, and we like them both - very much.

CR is smaller and easier to get around - but sadly - has become more expensive - but you can still find deals if you check around.

We loved Arenal Volcano/Volcan - and the little village of La Fortuna (they have some good deals) - and also - I went scuba diving with 22 foot - gentle giant-Manna Rays off Flamingo Beach - in NW Guanacaste. There is also an incredible hot springs/botanical garden really - with a good restaurant near Arenal - but it has become expensive - and there is an less expensive alternate/or two - across the road.

And the river rafting in CR is fantastic too, and I went on the Pacuare but the Renevazation is also very good., especially the "Dragon's Tail" or whatever the long series of rapids is called.

They will pick you up at your place in/around San Jose and it's a full day of fun, starting with an authentic breakfast - and then it includes a lunch stop on the shore about half way through your rafting trip - and the ceviche and ham and cheese sandwiches never tasted so good.

Nica also has a ton of stuff to do - and out by the Barcelo resort/on the Pacific side - an hour or so drive from Managua - there is a cute little village - whose name escapes me. Actually - if you can get a good deal at Barcelo (the Spanish version of Club Med) - they have good food and drinks - all inclusive.

And there is also a Volcan close to Managua/south of it - that you take a Mercedez truck ride up to and you can hike around - but it's not active - per se - not like Arenal. My niece's girl scout group hiked all around it, and you can check about staying there overnight.

There are also some cute islands south of Managua on the lake - which have boats going out to them, and you can take a day trip - or even arrange to stay overnight if you choose.

We also ventured north to the "Black Forest" of Nica (3 hour drive or so) - and it's cool - settled by Germans ovre 100 years ago.
Tomsd is offline  
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Nov 13th, 2012, 02:06 PM
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I loved Costa Rica, it was beautiful. I'd def recommend CR.
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Nov 13th, 2012, 06:45 PM
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Every body knows about the beauty of Costa Rica But Nicaragua is like Costa Rica many many years ago, is still a country to be discover and something that you might enjoy and Costa Rica doesn[t have is History you will love to hear from the local guides or people the history about William Walker, the gold rush time, Comodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, how Nicaragua almost got the Canal that is in Panama, the Somozas era the Sandinistas revolution the Iarn Contra affair and all this next to a beautiful Colonial city As Leon or Granada that Costa Rica doesn[t have Nicaragua has the same Nature that Costa Rica but everything is less Commercial.

Give a try to Nicaragua you won[t regret it.

And if need a hand from some professionals i Recommend they can help you alot.
Byronjob is offline  
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Nov 13th, 2012, 07:38 PM
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Hola Folks
Nicaragua! I came here after sailing around the Caribbean and Central America for the best part of twenty years. I wanted a new country that was fresh and developing. I also wanted a safe place where I could live in peace. This North West coast of Nicaragua is the spot. I have been helping some friends from California run a small beach Hotel called Playa Roca just west of Leon in Las Penitas. I also do tours out of Corinto up the beach. I have been in the tourist business most of my life and enjoy doing the tours. This country has a lot to offer and new activities are being discovered every day. The two things that I enjoy the most are the friendly alert people and the cost of living! If you want any help planing a trip or tour feel free to email me at [email protected]. Happy days! Max
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Nov 14th, 2012, 05:26 PM
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Thanks to all for the suggestions.

To CorintoMax, BryonJob and others who have been or currently live in Nica - If I decide to go with Nica over CR, will I be hampered by my lack of Spanish?...I know basic phrases but that is about it. I definitely would be leaning toward basing out of Granada and Leon to do my exploration of the country.
suzski is offline  
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Nov 14th, 2012, 06:08 PM
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I speak very little Spanish, we had absolutely no trouble. Lots of English spoken, and, even when not, with a bit of effort, things all worked out.
JeanH is offline  
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Nov 15th, 2012, 07:23 AM
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I live in Costa Rica, but have visited Nicaragua, specifically Granada and found it fascinating! It's by far one of my favorite places in the world, and you will LOVE it if you are a history major. The food is amazing and everything in Nicaragua is so much cheaper when compared to the costs in Costa Rica. I agree it is a beautiful country full of discovery.

I went on two tours with No Rush Tours (look him up on Trip Advisor). He's a Nicaragua local, who also lived in Chicago for awhile. He knows anything and everything about Nicaragua history. We went with him on the islets tour in Granada, worth every penny.. as well as the Mombacho volcano tour where we also went to a bat cave (terrifying for me but my boyfriend loved it), we swam in the crater lake, had a typical lunch, and went to a town known for making pottery, got to see them make it and practice ourselves.

We also took one of the horse carriage rides around the city that stops at different historical points and is a lot of fun for sight seeing.

In Costa Rica, the La Fortuna area is great. I just visited a week ago and stayed at the Arenal Nayara resort, which was fantastic! One thing to note about the La Fortuna area is that a lot of the hotels/resorts are quite a ways out of town so if you don't plan to only stay at the resort you will be taking taxis to lots of places. We were only there for a short time and enjoyed the hotel, affordable rooms ($250-$350 range) with jacuzzis on the balcony! There is a sushi restaurant, wine bar, pool bar/restaurant, and other restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everything about this hotel is first class.

In La Fortuna, we went to the Baldi hot springs (in my opinion newer and nicer than Tabacon), we ate dinner at Don Rufino's in town - try the Grandma's chicken, it's great.. we also ate at Lava Lounge in town a fun local spot. I know you said you've already been zip lining but we did the Sky Trek Adventure tour, and it's unlike any other zip line tour I have ever done. You are SO high above the canopy, and they are longest and highest zip lines in Costa Rica I believe.

If you head down to a beach area, Manuel Antonio is a nice spot, with beautiful beaches, especially in the National Park. Tulemar Vacation Homes has access to a private beach and they have a lot of different properties inside their resort, that are in a great location, short walking distance to area restaurants/bars, grocery stores etc.

You will love Central America!
mangoemily is offline  
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Nov 21st, 2012, 08:28 PM
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Costa Rica is really awesome holiday destination.
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