Costa Rica or St. John?

Old Mar 4th, 2005, 09:04 AM
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Costa Rica or St. John?

Hello, all,

We're hoping to head south for an active beach vacation this May. We're looking for beautiful beaches, good snorkeling, good hiking and a choice of other outdoorsy activities, as well as a location that has decent restaurants and some sort of night life (nothing wild and crazy, but we don't want to just sit in our room after sunset). Basically, we want quality beach time, but we'd go crazy spending an entire week doing nothing but laying on the beach.

Out of all the Caribbean islands, we've narrowed it down to St. John, mostly because of the Virgin Islands National Park and because it seems to be a perennial favorite here on this board.

We were pretty set on St. John until we realized that we could go to Costa Rica for a lot less money, thereby possibly extending our trip by a couple of days. I haven't researched CR as much as I have SJ, but it seems like CR also offers the good beaches and good hiking that we're looking for.

Airfare isn't much of a factor, as the cost to fly from Atlanta to each of these destinations is pretty similar. (And anyway, we're hoping to use frequent flier miles.) Air travel time, though, is in St. John's favor...

Any suggestions here? Thanks!!

(p.s. I have also posted this message on the Caribbean board.)
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 09:16 AM
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I have not been to St. John , but almost went in November , we decided that while it is indeed VERY beautiful , both land and beaches , we wanted a bit more local flavor . I have heard it described as a bit sterile .... Again , I have not been , LOVE Costa Rica though ! You have everything here except great snorkeling . Two very different places .
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 11:17 AM
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Hi! meredith
We have been to St.John several times and it is our favorite island. We love driving around to all the different beautiful beachs and the snorkeling is some of the best I have ever seen.. Also,there are several day trips you can take from St John. Would highly recommend Virgin Gorda for the baths.C.R. from what I have read is not known for its white sand beachs or turquoise water if thats important to you. However, I have read they have some great beachs just different from St. John. Having said that, we are planning our first trip to C.R. and are very EXCITED. We just wanted to do something different more adventurous.We are going primaraly to see the amazing rainforest,wildlife, volcanos and do some whitewater rafting. If you do decide to go to C.R. this board is very gracious about giving good advice on planning your trip. Good Luck on your decision it was the same dilemma we went through.
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 12:40 PM
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Meredith, I have not been to Costa Rica but we are planning a trip for next May. I have however, been to St. John. St. and it is amazing! I spent 2 weeks there in March of 2002. It was magical! If you want amazing beaches with white sand, crystal clear water, and great snorkeling then St. John is where you should go. From the research I've done, Costa Rica sounds amazing too but more for it's adventure and wildlife and less for it's beaches. The beaches of Costa Rica seem very different than the beaches of St. John. The waters of St. John are clam and ideal for swimming, snorkeling etc. There is plenty to do on St. John. Take a snorkeling tour where they take you to some amazing places off the island. No trip to St.John is complete with out a visit to the Willie-T, a bar/restaurant in a boat anchored off Norman island. (Great snorkeling off Norman Island) The hiking on St. john is great too. It's a National Park so it is easy to get information about all the trails. The nightlife in Cruz bay is mellow but there are definitely place to hear live music. There is a bar with a pool table. We spent a lot of time in Coral Bay. There is a great little open air bar/restaurant called Skinny Legs that sometimes has live music. The Shipwreck restaurant is another good place to grab dinner. Believe me you will not be board spending a week in St. John. There are also island hopping trips you can take to the BVI's, you can rent a speed boat and do your own exploring. There are sailing cruises you could take. St. John is a very special place and if you choose it you won't be disappointed.
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 04:17 PM
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Thanks to all for the advice. We have decided to stay with our original plan - we're going to St. John! Costa Rica is very tempting, but St. John has everything we're looking for in this trip. But Costa Rica will definitely remain on our list!
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 04:57 PM
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Meredith-- I think you've made the right choice. My husband and I had our maiden trip to CR this past January since it's somewhere we've been eager to go for a long time. And it was wonderful! The scenery was terrific, the hiking different from other hiking we've done (loved those hanging bridges, etc.), and it was fun to see lots of new animals up close and personal. Still, it doesn't hold a candle to St John in our view. SJ is very beautiful also-- not as spectacular and "different" as CR, but definitely more beautiful (because it's hilly and woodsy in parts) than many other Caribbean islands. The water and the views over to other islands are absolutely gorgeous. (I agree with a previous poster that you should try to get around to some of the other islands, maybe on an all-day snorkel trip of some sort.) We've been back to SJ 4-5 times, mainly because snorkeling is a great passion, and of all the places we've been, the only one that compares with SJ is the Great Barrier Reef (which, alas, is a bit more difficult to get to). Also, while some of the beaches in CR are ok, none of them that we saw are great. ALL of the beaches in SJ are truly first rate. (The beaches in Manuel Antonio are more interesting for the animals, etc than for the quality of the sand or the water; SJ beats them hands down. ) I should warn you, though, that while there definitely is hiking in SJ-- some really nifty trails-- it's likely to be too hot to enjoy much of that. And the hiking in CR is for sure better and much more various. Food in neither place is anything to write home about, though we found more good restaurants in SJ than in CR. In short, I think you've made a good choice. If you have any specific questions, I'll be glad to try to answer them, as we know SJ well by now. Have fun!
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 11:08 PM
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My girlfriend responded to you earlier about St. John. I know you made the right choice. St. John is a very special place. I lived there for a year at 18, and my Dad lived there for 13 years. On the north shore road out of Cruz Bay are the amazing beaches. . Trunk Bay is the fabulous one everyone takes pictues of, but try the others to get away from the throngs of swimmers off of tour buses. Maho Bay is a cool eco-tourism resort. There restaurant has a great sunset view down the mountain from the giant gazebo that is their dining room. Dinner is from 5-7 I think. Definitely check out Coral Bay and Skinny Legs. There is not a ton out there, and it's all spread out, but that's where you feel like you are down in pirate country. The Baths would be an awesome sidetrip(worth it!). Cruz Bay is fun. Get off of St. Thomas as fast as you can and get to St, John!!!
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Old Mar 5th, 2005, 05:25 AM
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Hi Meredith,

We have been to St John and Costa Rica. They are very different from each other. The beaches and snorkeling are the best we have ever seen. We did a boat trip to the Baths in Virgin Gorda, that is a must do. We booked a private trip but split it with another couple (total strangers). After leaving the Baths we stopped and did some snorkeling that was the best ever. the visibility seemed to be endless. We rented a house in Coral Bay and were very happy. Also rented 4 wheel drive to do some exploring in more remote areas. It is definetly more expensive but worth it.

Have a great time,
Lisa
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Old Mar 5th, 2005, 07:00 AM
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When in St. John, check out Leinster Bay for the turtles....we swam wth 3 or 4 the day we were there and no one else was around. St. John's and BVI's are wonderful for snorkeling and some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. I agree that you need to get out on a boat to really appreciate the surrounding area/islands.
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Old Mar 19th, 2005, 09:25 AM
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Have not been to Costa Rica, but love St John.
We have been to St. John twice for three weeks wach time. If you wnat to have great snorkeling experience that's the plac eyou want to go. We rented a car that gave us huge freedom to explore almost all the beaches. Great snorkeling is near Concordia Salt Pond Bay- very beautiful beach. We stayed at Concordia tent/cabin - it's a sister resort to Maho,it gave us freedom and solutude, great views from the tent no 1.
I fyou have your own car - go to Lameshur beaches, secluded, good snorkeling, black flies in the evening. As far as hiking : we are hikers from Colorado and you can do few hikes in St. John: Rams head, Waterlemon Cay, Reef Bay trail.
Rent a kayak or sun fish in Maho- its fun.
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Old Mar 19th, 2005, 10:14 AM
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Meredith- have a great trip! i've been to both and you are definitely making the right decision. we completely enjoyed our trip to costa rica but, in my opinion, it is no longer the cheaper vacation destination that it used to be. American tourism has driven prices considerably higher than they used to be. Basically,it's still a third world country but prices are not reflective of this.
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