Costa Rica possible without a car or taking the bus?

Feb 25th, 2009, 03:49 PM
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Costa Rica possible without a car or taking the bus?

Hello! I am in the early stages of planning a trip to Costa Rica for this August. We are contemplating a tour, but if I can convince my husband that we can go without renting a car, he will be open to not doing a tour. I am not against doing a tour, I just think I can plan it for a lot less. Having read messages here, I know that I can hire drivers to get us from one place to the next. However, how do people get around once they arrive at their destination w/out a car? For example, Manuel Antonio park, Arenal, or Monteverde? Are there taxis that we can hire within these areas? Is there accommodations that would be preferred for people who don't have a car? We really don't want to rely on public transportation because when we have relied on it for other trips in the past, it has caused a lot of difficulties and we'd rather avoid having to depend on it. Thanks in advance for any advice!
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Feb 25th, 2009, 03:50 PM
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I forgot to mention, for accommodations our budget is $100 or less.
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Feb 25th, 2009, 03:55 PM
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In between cities, we use a private driver. Within cities, we use taxis or stay somewhere that has a shuttle. Taxis have always been very easy to get. In MA, we walked most places. We went to a restaurant outside of town, and the taxi was only $5. In Monteverde we stayed pretty far out, and one taxi ride was $8 and the other was $5. It was more expensive in Arenal because things are spread out, but our hotel had a free shuttle into town. Almost all of the daily tours we did included pickup and dropoff at our hotels. A lot of people like to have a car in Arenal, not so much in Manuel Antonio or Monteverde because they're more compact.
volcanogirl is online now  
Feb 25th, 2009, 04:10 PM
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I'll look for accommodations with a shuttle then. Do you have any suggestions for where to stay? We are thinking Villa Prats or La Posada for MA because they seem close to the park entrance.
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Feb 25th, 2009, 07:20 PM
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La Posada would be a great choice for you. Si Como No has a shuttle, but it's an expensive hotel.

In Monteverde, we liked Fonda Vela; we stayed in a new junior suite that was really comfortable.
volcanogirl is online now  
Feb 26th, 2009, 02:14 AM
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How much should we expect to pay for a private driver from destination to destination?
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Feb 26th, 2009, 04:56 AM
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We paid $120 to go from SJO to Arenal. From Arenal to Manuel Antonio we paid $180. If you get a good driver, they serve as a tour guide of sorts, answering all your questions and narrating things along the way. We've had them bring blankets and pillows in the van which surprised us, bottled water, etc. We've always had good luck. We hire them through our hotels when we book them.
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Feb 26th, 2009, 04:56 AM
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I'm pricing airfare for August, traveling from Seattle, and it's in the mid-600s. Is this a good price or should I wait a few months to buy it? I noticed it's in the $400's for March and April travel... I've never priced airfare to San Jose before so I don't know what's reasonable...

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Feb 26th, 2009, 05:00 AM
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Thanks for all of your help, volcanogirl. I've noticed you've answered a lot of ?'s about Costa Rica, can you tell me if this itinerary is ok for a first trip?

2 nights Tortuguero
3 nights Arenal
3 nights Monteverde
4 nights M.A.
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Feb 27th, 2009, 11:27 PM
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ttt
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Feb 28th, 2009, 04:43 AM
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I think it looks good. For me personally I'd rather stay 4 nights Arenal and 3 nights MA just because I love Arenal and there's so much to do there, but if you're a beachy person, then you'd probably pick MA.
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Feb 28th, 2009, 09:38 AM
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If no car and no bus, that makes me think flying. Is that a reasonable alternative, especially if you are just one person? A taxi for one can get expensive.
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Feb 28th, 2009, 01:13 PM
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You got to be kidding!!! If you are going on that tight of a budget,... wait another year and do it right,... you may never go back. (Except I would) August- September are the worst months,... please check the annual weather reports. Everyday will be miserable. Try for March, April of 2010!

Busses???? ha,...they run on "Pura Vida" time,... and I'll drive any place is the US at any time of the day and night,... but some of those 2x4 (really) bridges are only 6 inches vider that a bus,.... annnd a bus is generally on 16-18 passengers because anything longer doesn't make the hairpin turns.

If you have problems w/ your husband before you go on this trip,... wait )

And what if your rental or the bus breaks down (they do), even w/ a new rental. I did not see any American made cars , most were a brand from Latin America that cannot be imported to the US.

Cell phones don't work (only in the main city(s)my friend brought a a satalite phone that doesn't have any problems in other countries but the only place it worked was in San Jose.

My first trip to C.R. was three weeks w/ a group of 14 from Santa Monica College (L.A.) The Marine Biologist Professor and his wife have been there numerous times, also several people and been to CR before and all this experience and knowledge made every day a pleasurable adventure. Also, our two tour guides were in charge of everything else. They solved all the little problems that occur in a trip. Our guide had a college degree, therefore spoke excellent english,.. however, it still took a couple of days to get used to his accent. (Try England some time)Imagine a taxi driver in Costa Rica,... ))
Good Luck! jan

PS I'm all about adventure,... most times I travel alone. Four years ago I went to LAX to get a ticket for my third trip to Italy,...The cheapest fare that day was to Rome. hmmmmm,..Never been there before,... the next day I was on a plane to Rome,... when I arrived (Sat afternoon) I had to find a place to stay,... ended up in Florence about 9pm,... in a delighful small hotel. What beautiful memories!

But going to Costa Rica,... the best way to see it is on a tour,... check out Swiss tours.
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Feb 28th, 2009, 03:44 PM
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Why Swiss tours?

Why wouldn't it work to fly to a place and stay there for how ever many nights you want, using the guides based at the lodge/hotel/camp, whatever? Then fly to the next place, for about 2-3 stops? Or would a private driver still be less than a plane?

Would this be just too expensive for one person?

I'd like a group, but must groups don't stay put long enough in one place for me and are not as narrowly focused on nature as I am, even the nature trips. And I am not an avid birder, though I like birds and will bring a bird book, but I don't fit well with the serious twitchers.

At first I thought the "You've got to be kidding" comment was in reference to my flying question. When I am kidding I put in goofy smileys.

Thanks for the assistance and Britomart, I hope you get the answers for a brilliant trip.
atravelynn is offline  
Feb 28th, 2009, 03:46 PM
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I mean, would a private driver still be less than a plane TICKET? I know a driver is less than a private plane.
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Feb 28th, 2009, 03:50 PM
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A plane ticket, for 1 person, is often less than a private driver. Not a fan of groups personally, too much crammed into too short of time and I prefer choosing where I will stay & eat. I've done several trips, never rented a car (though I am on next trip) and have never had any difficulties getting around. There are so many options for so many budgets.
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Feb 28th, 2009, 03:53 PM
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I suggest Puerto Viejo over Manuel Antonio in August. I'd also spend 4 in Arenal and 2 in Monteverde. La Posada should be a great choice for you. In Arenal I like El Silencio del Campo, in Puerto Viejo I like Banana Azul (Azania Bungalows is also great and it has a pool). Other than getting to Osa I've always used Interbus for transportation. This will cost you less than private driver for 2 people.
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Feb 28th, 2009, 04:31 PM
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I am not a fan of planned tour groups either; most people in CR find it pretty easy to plan things themselves, and then you can go and stay and eat whatever you want whenever you want. We find CR (especially with the help of this board!) to be very user friendly. Maybe I'm too much of a planner, but I actually love researching and learning about all these places.

Good suggestion, hip, about 2 nights in Monteverde. My husband said he wishes that's what we did, but we didn't have very good weather when we were there, so I think that influenced him.
volcanogirl is online now  
Mar 1st, 2009, 02:15 AM
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First off, thanks for all of the responses. Honestly, this is my first trip to a third world country and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about it. This is what prompted me to initially consider going on a tour. But after reading lots of posts here, I've got the impression that C.R. is fairly easy to get around via private drivers and shuttles. I don't like the idea of flying because then we'd have to worry about how to get to the airport, how to find my terminal, etc, etc. I like the idea of being picked up at my hotel by a driver who will then take me to the door of my next destination. Even when adding in the cost of the private drivers, and also considering that it seems like recommended, quality accommodations are available for under our $100 per night budget, it seems much less expensive to go on our own than on a tour.

As for going in March or April, well, that would put us over our budget, and I much prefer visiting destinations in off-season when attractions are less crowded and prices are cheaper. Again, based on posts here, I've read that the rainstorms tend to happen in the afternoon so it's best to do stuff in the morning hours, then nap/read in the hotel during the storm. Actually, I've read this about Manuel Antonio only, will it be raining non-stop in Monteverde/Arenal? Being from Seattle, I'm more concerned about the heat and less concerned with rain.

Hipvirgochick: What is the advantage to Puerto Viejo vs. Manuel Antonio? I've actually recently read some articles that the beaches at M.A. are dirty/polluted and that swimming in the water isn't recommended. Any truth to this? Our primary reason for going to M.A. is to snorkel and to kayak.

Here's my concerns about going to C.R. at this point:

1. Unbearable heat

2. Having to rely on expensive tours to be able to go anywhere/do anything

3. Not being able to snorkel/kayak at Manuel Antonio due to weather/lack of clarity and/or pollution.

4. Constant rain at Monteverde/Arenal
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Mar 1st, 2009, 05:47 AM
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Just a note, regardless of whether you choose to fly, but to point out to others maybe worrying about the same thing - I wouldn't have apprehension about flying in CR due to "terminals" etc. The largest one I can think of is Pavas, near San Jose, where Nature Air takes off from. It is about the size of ....say, 2 or 3 7-11's The majority of flights in other cities leave from airstrips with, if you're lucky, something similiar to a bus stop lean-to. Just to note also, depending on how many in your party, it may be cheaper to travel by Interbus than private driver, just another option.

I've never thought of CR as a third world country tbh; the Hooters, Burger King's and Pizza Hut's kind of dispelled that for me .

Not sure what constitutes unbearable heat. It is hot & humid yes in a majority of places. In others, you may find yourself quite chilled. I had to cut short a 3 night stay to 2 nights last year at Bosque de Paz simply as I was freezing & did not have the proper clothes. In Arenal I could've used a light jacket at night. I wouldn't worry too much about constant rain unless you're going in October. More likely you'll get a brief morning or late afternoon shower that is gone as quickly as it came.

Not sure about the having to rely on expensive tours. In MA for example, you can take the bus that goes by every 20 minutes or so for under a $1 to the MA park, when I was there last entry was $7 but probably has gone up since. A guide I would suggest but you are certainly free to walk around on your own, it's a well tread, and often crowded, circular route. Or in Arenal you can also take a cab to Arenal Park and walk around on your own. All places will have tours of course, ziplines or hiking tours or boat rides, all run anywhere from $20-$80 depending.

I never found the snorkeling good at MA, even years ago, so not sure the recent issues they've been having makes a huge difference. The nicest beach in the park is often calm but is still a lot rougher than many other beaches I've been to in the US. The silt is often churned up, and riptides can often be an issue as well. Haven't kayaked in MA, so can't comment on that.
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