Costa Rica vs Panama

Jun 19th, 2004, 07:02 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 49
Costa Rica vs Panama

I am planning a trip for the Thanksgiving holiday for a week with two small kids (8,6) and was pretty set on Costa Rica but want at least to consider Panama before I book, The catch is that I amlocked into where I could stay - San Jose Marriott in CR or Panama City Marriott in Panama. I have a 7 night certificate for a Marriott that allows me access to these two properties.

With this limitation, what are the pros and cons for either...kids love to swim and are very good so snorkeling trips would be great. I am also planning on a rental car for the week so I can do day trips. Any advice, opinions, suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
pmschoe is offline  
Jun 20th, 2004, 02:33 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 37
I love Costa Rica! Perhaps I'm just saying that because I just returned, but the country is great! But, I think Panama has Costa Rica beat of snorkeling...there water seems a lot nicer. If you want more of a vacation to swim/snorkel, maybe Panama would be better. If you want an adventure (hikes, canopy tours) go to Costa Rica. From what it looks like you want to accomplish, I would def. say Panama.
Wes2004 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2004, 04:05 PM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 49
Thanks for the info...I decided that CR would be best given that we would have to stay in Panama City and from what I gathered, we would have to drive fairly far (relatively speaking)every day to do snorkeling as compared to just staying close to the water, Given this I think CR is the better choice.
pmschoe is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2004, 06:53 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 356
pmshoe - are there any other Marriotts you can choose in other parts of Central America or the Caribbean - or even anywhere else? San Jose, CR is not going to give you the easy access to snorkeling, swimming, etc that you mentioned you wanted - and most people advise you stay as few nights as possible in San Jose. Just curious what your other choices are....
sclubb is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2004, 09:51 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 621
sclubb is right. If snorkling is important to you, you'd be much better off looking for a property like the Marriott in Cancun.

But if you have only Costa Rica or Panama to chose from, so be it.

The San Jose Marriott is a nice property. Modern and very upscale with a cool coffee plantation look to it as you enter the property. It's also right on the main highway, so if you have the rental car, you're well situated for easy day trips.

Although San Jose is not really "convenient" to either coast, you can get out to the coastal areas within a couple hours, and lots of folks do day trips out of San Jose.

Have fun!
Mark
www.tiogringo.com
TioGringo is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2004, 07:59 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 49
Folks,

Thanks for your comments and your points are well taken...unfortunately I have looked into other destinations with Marriott properties (Aruba, Caymen Islands, etc) but given the restrictions on the Marriott certificate (5 star property or lower)that narrowed the field considerably. The reason I have decided on CR is te fact that you have indicated, the property is very nice and I will be able to do several day trips from this spot. Panama seemed interesting but I think given the restriction of the panama city Marriot, less option available (and not as nice of a property).

I f we did want to drive from SJO to go snorkeling...where would be the best place to go?

Many thanks
pmschoe is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2004, 08:16 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 356
From what I understand, the snorkeling in Costa Rica isn't very great - so as long as your kids will be happy with the adventure tours too, then you will have a great time. But, I am familiar with the Marriott properties - the Category 5 ones - and they have several to choose from in better swimming/snorkeling destinations - St. Kitts, Cancun, Puerto Rico, Ocho Rios Jamaica, Curacao, Grand Cayman, Aruba, Honolulu & even Sydney Australia!! Not trying to change your plans, but want to make sure you were aware of those choices too! I am sure others can reply re the best place for beach/snorkeling from San Jose - but I THINK the closest is a 1 1/2 hour drive - not sure of that though. Let us know what you end up doing!
sclubb is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2004, 01:39 PM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 49
Hi Sclubb,

You are absolutely right about the other properties/destinations. I should have also indicated I am using miles for the flights which is also a limiting factor. My first choice was Honululu, but its impossible to get the flights. Same with St. Kitts. I did not try Jamaica, but assumed that it may be too much of a "party environment". Cancun would have been great less the black out dates during the time I will travel. Australia - not enough miles.

Given that CR & Panama are available and will not break the bank (as compared to the carribean island destinations) I locked in on these two. I mentioned Snorkeling because I think my kids would really enjoy this as one of the activities - they are fairly young (8,6) but excellent swimmers. Given that the trip will be essentially free, I am sure we will have a fantastic time even if the snorkeling is not top notch. From what I have investigated, CR offers many outdoor activitities and things to go explore. I did read about a dolphin encounter in CR that sounds awesome, but from a previous posting it sounds like it may be too far to do being based in SJO. Thanks again for your thoughts!
pmschoe is offline  
Jun 24th, 2004, 10:22 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 587
Costa Rica should be your choice, there is nothing to do in Panama City, besides the weather is bad in Panama. San Jose is a lot more tourist friendly.
miguelgcuadra is offline  
Jun 24th, 2004, 10:50 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 356
Have a wonderful trip!! You can't beat the price!
sclubb is offline  
Jun 24th, 2004, 03:45 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 3,864
I disagree with the post above that says "there's nothing to do in Panama City." The San Felipe district, which was the old colonial quarter, is one of the most charming places in Central America, in a "faded grandeur" kind of way. Just outside the city are the ruins of Panama Viejo, the original settlement. The Canal and the Soberania National Park are easily visited from Panama City. And I think Panama City is more cosmopolitan than San Jose.

Not that there's anything wrong with selecting San Jose. (Although I don't think you're in easy "day trip" distance for snorkeling in either place.) I just don't want anyone to go away from this thread under the impression that Panama City has nothing to do.

As for weather, I wouldn't call it "bad." Panama City is much warmer than San Jose. That's your call.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Jun 25th, 2004, 07:49 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 125
Hi pmschoe,

I live in Panama (7 years now) and have a 3 year old. If it was between San Jose and Panama City I would definitely go with Panama City with kids. I was just at the San Jose Marriott a couple of weeks ago - while nice it is out of the city and you would be limited in your day trips.
In Panama you are one hour drive from the Pacific coast beaches and 2 hours from the very nice Caribbean beaches.
Within 30 minutes you can be in jungle on nice trails to walk and see birds and wildlife. Panama is so compact you aren't far from anything.
Day trips to see the canal (a must) an indigenous tribe that live in the middle of the jungle as they have for centuries (not a tourist trap but a real village) only an hour drive and 1/2 boat ride away. Take the train across the country - a one hour trip.

The only other recommendation with your kids would be to see if you could get in to the Marriott Los Sueños near Jaco on the beach in CR. This property I would say beats them all - beach, pool, etc - town not too far away. Will your certificate not allow you that option?

If you want more specific ideas on what to do while in Panama let me know.

Andrew
AndrewGW is offline  
Jun 25th, 2004, 07:59 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 125
Just read your previous post re Los Sueñnos - too bad - I did a site inspection there a couple of weeks ago and would really like to take the family there. So my previous post still stands - for me - knowing both hotels and what you can do from each - Panama would win.
Miguel is obviously a Tico!!! and Jeff is right - tons of stuff to do in Panama. November can be a bit rainy - but in Panama City we get an hour to two of rain on days it does rain. I was in San Jose a couple of weeks ago and it was overcast and dreary the whole day. Heaps of stuff to do around San Jose - volcanoes, coffee plantations, La Paz Waterfall - but you really couldn't do even the Pacific coast with two small kids in a day. In Panama you can do either coast as a comfortable day trip.

Hope this all helps...
AndrewGW is offline  
Jun 25th, 2004, 08:54 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 587
Hello all.....no Miguel is not a TICO, Miguel is a NICA...lol. If I were going to Central America, no doubt my choice would be Costa Rica. You all should agree that it is more friendly for the GRINGOS... and like Cancun is made for US tourists......This lady is travelling with two young kids, she needs safety and confort.
miguelgcuadra is offline  
Jun 26th, 2004, 12:16 PM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 49
Did not intend to start a fued (just kidding). After the last few comments from the Panama City fans, I may look into changing my bookings to Panama City - I thought the property IN SJO would be much nicer than PC, but it sounds like they are both comparable. As far as the snorkeling, the SJO Mariott adverstised a distance of 40 KM which does not sound that far away (granted probably not as nice as Panama City from what I gather, but if this is ot the case, then I would be a bit dissapointed, We don't need a real "cancun type" of destination - My wife and I traveled to Kenya two years ago to do a safari - not the most developed place in the world so that aspect of Panama City would not bother me in the least just as long as safety is not an issue (although I have been all around South America myself - Mexico City, Lima, Rio, Buenos Aries). The bottom line is that we would like to go to a place that would maximize the Marriott free stay, be able to use my airline miles, and have enough to see and do for a week ( I will be renting a car) and ideally include some snorkeling as one of the activities. Any further thoughts would be welcome (by the way I am not "a lady" - very funny).
pmschoe is offline  
Jun 26th, 2004, 12:38 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 5,869
Try to get some time with the Cunas (Indios) in their island vills in the Caribbean.
The diving/snorkling is great - the Pacific side of Pananma/P. bay has more sharks than nearly anywhere in the world.
M
mikemo is offline  
Jun 26th, 2004, 01:44 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 356
Hi again pmschoe - I don't know anything about Panama City & the options you'd have there - and I will only be visiting CR for the 1st time next week. But, all I will say now is that you should find out the actual driving distance between the hotels & the areas you want to visit. Don't go by mileage. From what I've found in my research for CR, a very short distance can take several hours since the roads aren't that great & you can only go so fast. Once you know the actual travel time that might help you with your decision one way or the other!
sclubb is offline  
Jul 6th, 2004, 02:40 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 18
costa rica is beautiful, but snorkeling is not 'world class' here. the water is very rich in nutrients, which equates to a whole lot of life, but also hurts visibility. the people are great, and the views beautiful.
dgriffin1976 is offline  
Jul 14th, 2004, 09:48 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 40
I live in both Panama and Costa Rica. I've spent the past six years doing marketing for tourism companies and now live part time in Panama doing the same. I think I have a pretty keen sense of how to compare/contrast the two countries. Either can be "better" depending on what you value. I tend to love going to both for very different reasons.

Panana City as a City...kicks butt on San Jose, Costa Rica. It has more to do, more culture, more modern lodging, the canal, the Causeway, fancy dining, etc. There's more history and culture, beautiful architecture, etc. But how many people want to visit a city on vacation? For first and last nights...it's cool. However the weather is anything but. It's at sea level and bloody hot! Fortunately, from taxis to restaurants, everywhere is blasting the A/C.

Costa Rica has more developed tourism. This means more variety of hotels, tours and transportation. This is a pro or a con, depending on how "touristy" you like your vacations to be. Panama has more untouched, undiscovered sites, but less places to stay.

Panama doesn't have an erupting volcano, CR does.

Costa Rica doesn't have two coasts within 45 minutes, nor does it have great snorkeling anywhere. Panama has great snorkeling on BOTH coasts.

Panama doesn't have as many funky little beach towns that have sprouted up in Costa Rica. Nor are there as many accessible "beauty spots".

Costa Rica has more crowded tourist beaches, more dense hotel spacing in popular towns and tons of expats living there.

Panama's people are nice, but not QUITE as nice as "ticos" (in my opinion). There are also more English speaking people outside of San Jose in tourism, unlike Panama.

Costa Rica has a history of peace, Panama does not. However, I don't think a country's past should count...but to some people it does. Panama now feels much safer (in my opinion) than CR b/c there are more well-trained police officers. San Jose is quite a dangerous town and I've seen far too many tourists ripped off in Costa Rica.

Panama City is bloody hot...wait, I mentioned that.

That's all I can think of right now. In short, I feel that Panama is "Costa Rica in 1985". It looks very similar to Costa Rica except that there is more living Coral on the Carib and Pacific coasts that leads to better snorkeling. Costa Rica has more touristy conveniences and English speakers. It also has more "destinations".

That's my 2 cents.

Casey
halloranc is offline  
Oct 16th, 2004, 04:50 AM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 49
I decided on Costa Rica and was wondering what are the potnetial day trips from our base in San Jose?
pmschoe is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:42 AM.