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CPI--Flamingo Beach

Old Apr 13th, 2008, 09:33 AM
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CPI--Flamingo Beach

We just returned from an outstanding week in Costa Rica. I wanted to let everyone know that my experience at the CPI school in Flamingo Beach was fantastic. I would recommend it to anyone without any reservations. Everyone there was nice, helpful and patient.

I'll post more later. I have some stories, including meeting Trvlmaven and her husband, but right now I still have to unpack.
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Old Apr 13th, 2008, 02:05 PM
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Wonderful! Can't wait to hear--we love that area and are returning in July. Just can't seem to visit Costa Rica without a 3-4 night stay in and around Playa Flamingo. Also have a week of experience at this school back in 2003. So glad you had a good experience. I didn't realize your trip was so immeditate--and now you're back!
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Old Apr 13th, 2008, 04:52 PM
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I did CPI Heredia a year ago and am considering Flamingo. So glad to hear you had a good time; I'd love to hear all the details!
Melissa
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Old Apr 14th, 2008, 02:20 PM
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I will post a separate 'trip' report later in the week, but more on CPI. We chose to stay in the studio apartments since my hubby was going too. They put us up in the Villagio flor de Pacifico in Potrero. A very nice place and our villa neighbors were a brother and sister from San Jose, just there to work for the month. We spent most of our evenings with them. I felt that we had the advantage of a 'Tico Family'. My husband called them our neighbor son and neighbor daughter.

I did hear one of the young girls complain about her homestay, but most people loved their 'Tico familia.'

The first morning at school you take a placement test, oral and written. Then you take a tour of the school while they grade your test. You are then placed with an instructor and students in your level. In my case sort of 'advanced beginner' there was one other student, another lady a little older than me. We got along wonderfully, laughed and learned a lot together.

Our instructor was wonderful, and would not allow us to speak English. If we did our name was written on the board and we would get a check by it. We played games, talked about things of interest to us all and learned without even realizing it. She really mantained a comfortable environment for us.

I have taken conversational Spanish for two semesters at our local community college and I learned more these four days than I did then.

The school offered a variety of afternoon trips and weekend trips. The only one we signed up for, a sailing trip with Trvlmaven and her husband was canceled, so I cannot comment on any of these types of activities.

I have read here that the Flamingo Beach campus is considered a 'party school'. I did not see that side, but there were plenty of young people there who could have been partiers and I wouldn't have known it.

I really enjoyed every minute of my school experience. I also think that it is like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it.

I would be happy to answer any specific questions if I can, and I am sure Trvlmaven will jump in here when she gets home and add more to it. She went to Heredia and Flamingo.
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Old Apr 14th, 2008, 06:42 PM
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It sounds like a great time! I'll look forward to reading the report, but appreciate the "sneak preview" of your CPI experience!
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Old Apr 14th, 2008, 07:27 PM
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Thanks for sharing! I think the summer months (June, July) probably see a few more partiers as high schoolers and college age kids alike really fill up the Flamingo and Heredia campuses (can't speak to Monteverde).
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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 04:45 AM
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Would you be willing to share the price and if 1-on-1 instruction is available? Thanks!
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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 06:48 AM
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Hola cgenster! We returned last night. Una aventura tanto fantastico! My DH and I took classes the first week in Monteverde, the second in Playa Flamingo. I was Intermediate level and both weeks I was the only student; DH had never taken a Spanish class in his like, but had listend to me speak it during our many travels to Mexico and he understands quite a bit. He was most pleased to be placed in "3rd grade" rather than kindergarten! Monteverde is beautiful and we stayed with a wonderful host family. (Own entrance, room and we had a private bath as well). We were so busy with our "tarea" in the afternoon that we didn't get to see many of the sites in MV. We did get to some nice restaurants for lunch, and made it to CASEM, the women's cooperative where I got the bulk of my recurdos. For our transfer weekend, we were able to have the school's travel agency book us into Arenal for the weekend. We were ready for some privacy (CR houses have VERY thin walls) and found the Lavas Tacotel lovely (it's not in the guide book, but it should be). We had a very nice room with a big balcony and an excellent view of the volcano. Saturday after the rest of the CPI students arrived, we hiked the El Silencio trail and saw lots of wildlife, orchids, monkeys (both howler and white face) and even a tayra). Leaf cutter ants were a hit with JT, a 12 year old on the hike. A few hours at Balde Thermal Springs (including a buffet dinner) were overshadowed by our drive to the backside of the volcano to view the flow. Amazing!
Sunday we began the day with a hike down to Catarata La Fortuna--the waterfalls are beautiful when you first spot them from the top, but a dip in the cool pools are a welcome reward for the 600 steps climb down (as well as prep for the climb back up). Lots of butterflies spotted here.
Will share our experiences at PF and meeting cgenster in a bit.
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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 01:49 PM
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Welcome back, cgenster! I'm glad to hear you had a good time at CPI Flamingo and learned a lot. I'm eager to hear the details. Were there restaurants you could walk to from your studio apartment? How far of a ride was it from the school? Anything you wish you would've packed (or thought you'd need but didn't)?
I'm going in June/July -- I'm excited and also grateful for you all on this forum who share your experiences and wisdom!
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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 02:32 PM
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Welcome back Trvlmaven. I have my pictures on the computer but haven't tried to upload them.

The total price for my school was $1050. That included the studio apartment and my hubby's stay. It wasn't one on one, but as Trvlmaven said she had one on one instruction because no one else was at her level. The school guarantees no more than four to a class.

Restaurants within walkin distance--that depends on how far you want to walk. Marco Polo, and I think the name is Diablo Tun Tun are both on the Villagio flor de Pacifico site. There is also a local soda in Potrero Las Brisa. I did not go there but some of the young girls went on Wednesday night which was Ladies night.

In Flamingo where the school is there are many places to eat, but I didn't eat at any of them. We ate in Brasilito at Camaron Dorado and we ate at El Castillo, the bakery. My husband said that El Castillo had the best nachos he ever had.

You can also eat lunch at the school for a mere $2.00 and it looked good. There is a shuttle bus that picks you up either from your homestay or your apartmento. I walked one morning with some of the young girls to the school. We walked on the beach. It was about a 45 minute to an hour walk. It was pleasant in the morning but would be muy caliente en la tarde.

My in-laws just came in and I have to show pictures so more later.
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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 02:47 PM
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Thanks for the heads up on the nachos at El Castillo! We always go there at least once, but have never tried the nachos! This time we will. . . .
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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 07:04 PM
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Whoa - $1050 for a week? I didn't realize schools in Costa Rica were 8 or 10 times the cost of many schools in Guatemala, where every school I've researched has 1-on-1 instruction. I'm glad you had a great experience there but that's too rich for my blood.

I had a really fabulous experience on Lake Atitlán last summer at the Cooperativa school - 20 hours of 1-on-1 instruction with an outstanding teacher, wonderful homestay with meals, and nightly activities for $115. I studied there for a week and in Nebaj for a week (another great experience, same price) and had about a week to explore Antigua, Rio Dulce, and Tikal. Total cost for the trip including all activities, lodging, and airfare from Portland plus a flight from Flores to GUA was $1100.
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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 07:43 PM
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It sounds like a nice place to be. Oh right, I am going in 3 days! But I do have a question or two; How far is the beach from the Flor de Pacifico? Also is there a small store in the area to get a refresco o cerveza? Gracias por toda la informacion. Voy a estar unos dias en Flaminco y una semana en Monteverde.
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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 07:47 PM
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It's hard for one to determine what a language school is "worth" when one is unfamiliar with the country in which it is located!

Most people already know that Costa Rica is probably one of the pricier areas for studying Spanish. It seems, however, to be the pick of many organizations when they send their people abroad for training. There are surely many reasons for that.

Safety is one thing. I've not visited most of the other countries in CA, but am pretty sure I would feel less comfortable traveling alone all over Guatemala or Honduras or Mexico or Columbia. And while some of the other countries undoubtedly have a LOT to offer, it is difficult for me to imagine that they would offer MORE than Costa Rica (at least for me), unless it is in cultural history.

So, personally, while the low cost of other language schools is definitely appealing, but if I were to decide to go elsewhere (and I may sometime), it's difficult for me to imagine anyplace more beautiful or any people more warm and generous. In addition, I'd have a hard time traveling solo with as much ease and confidence as I do in Costa Rica.

So it really isn't a matter of what is affordable or having "rich blood". I certainly don't consider myself in those terms. It is a matter of how one has come to experience new parts of the world, impressions that have been made, decisions that are made based on those experiences, comfort zones, input from others, and just plain personal preference.

I have always been a little bit irked by people who criticize how I spend my money, making comments like "boy, you sure must have a lot more money than I do"--or other equally inappropriate remarks.

In defense of cgenster (and to get back in her good graces following her Monkey Trail fiasco!), let me share the price CPI lists on its website for 20 hours of study:

$285 per week (less for multiple weeks)
$130 per week for homestay

$415 per week. Occasionally the classes are one on one, sometimes two to one, but never more than 4 students per teacher.

For an additional 7-8 hours of study per week, the price goes up about $100. This super-intensive program is an option one can select. The afternoon sessions (1.5 hour per day) always are one student, one teacher.

cgenster was traveling with her husband, which increased the prices. Also, they were staying at a more expensive hotel, rather than a homestay.

Just a little clarification!
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Old Apr 16th, 2008, 05:11 AM
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Hi, thanks for jumping in Shillmac. I couldn't have defended myself any better if I tried.

We usually always go somewhere for Spring Break, usually the FL Keys, Savannah or somewhere warm to get away from Michigan winters.

We both thought that $1050. was very reasonable to include lodging for two for a week, four hours of instruction for five days, transportation to and from the school and breakfast. The places we normally go to in the states cost at least $200 per night (and that's if you find somewhere cheap). Multiply that by 7 and we have already spent more than what we did in Costa Rica.

Sr Flojo: La playa Potrero y La playa Penca are both within walking distance from the Villagio. The Villagio also has a daily shuttle to Flamingo and Playa Penca. There are a couple of small supermercados and there is one in the front of the Villagio along with a pizza place, ice cream shop and bar. We didn't have any trouble finding cervaza.
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Old Apr 16th, 2008, 03:16 PM
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Thanks Shillmac for the explanation about language schools/costs. My costs for two weeks of instruction for myself, one week for DH, one week homestay and one week at Villagio were $1650. We took advantage of the tours the school planned and I was amazed not only of the quality of hotels, tours, guides, but the low cost and flexibility of the travel planners. As cgenster mentioned, our sail tour was cancelled on Wed (a good thing since there were torrential rains that afternoon) but when I told the planner the sail was THE one thing DH wanted to do--she made it happen the next day and it was amazing! We're both experienced sailors and DH was happy as a clam being aboard (he even landed the first fish). After our homestay in MV, we were ready for some privacy and enjoyed the weekend (as previously reported) in Arenal. We spend the last weekend on a tour to Manual Antonio with other students we'd met from both the MV and Playa Flamingo campuses. What great people and I will definetely plan on returning to CPI for more instruction. We didn't make it to Playa Penca, but understand it is quite nice. In Portrero there are several mini-supers (we got a discount as students at the one near Playa Portrero). We did some shopping at the bigger market in PF and took a taxi back (4000 colones). CPI runs a free bus from Portrero twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. Marco Polo had the most amazing pizza and pasta! As the 'kitchen' in our casita was not quite up to "real" cooking standards, we really didn't 'mind' eating at MP. ugh--back to work tomorrow!
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Old Apr 16th, 2008, 03:58 PM
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These wonderful details are getting me excited for my trip this summer! Cgenster and/or TrvlMaven, were you able to use a credit card for some things (restaurant meals, food at the supermercado, tours booked through the school, etc.)? Is there an ATM within walking distance of Villagio Flor de Pacifico, or do I need to make sure I have a good amount of colones when I arrive from Heredia?
Also, did you feel that the area would be safe for me as a single woman to take walks etc? (I'm hoping I'll meet people to do things with at CPI - but just wondering how it will be as far as going there on my own.)
Thanks for all the great info.!
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Old Apr 16th, 2008, 04:15 PM
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just a thought on costs and expectations: I attended CPI Heredia and then Ixbalanque School in Copan, Honduras. The Honduras trip was much cheaper (half the cost?) and there was little to no temptation to speak English (because not too many local folks spoke it). We had amazing excursions, it wasn't very touristy (though there was some infrastructure), and it was a great time. (Thanks, hopefulist!)

That said, my homestay family was much more engaged in Costa Rica, and the level of instruction was significantly higher in Costa Rica. Plus there was an ease of travel in knowing we could eat and drink fairly freely there, and we were less worried about personal safety than in Honduras.

Both experiences were invaluable, and I wouldn't trade either. I'm in the process of planning a third trip for next fall/winter, and am yet to decide where that will be.

I think you need to know yourself: your budget, your comforts, your educational desires--both in language and in culture--when you make a spanish school decision.
That's my two cents!
Melissa
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Old Apr 16th, 2008, 04:16 PM
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There is a bank/ATH (as they are called in CR) within walking distance of CPI. We used Visa for most everything and when we used US$ we were given change in colones. AmerExp was not as widely accepted until we got to bigger resorts. Make friends with your classmates--they will be a lifeline. Walking during the daylight hours will be fine. At night--probably a different story--mostly because it's so dark, there are cattle on the loose and depending on which village you are in at Villagio--you may not want to venture out at night. That said, the Marco Polo restaurant is located in Villagio #3, right across the street from Villagio #2--where there is a security gate. Villagio #1 has a restaurant and a small market, plus the ice cream shop, but I'd guess many of those residents are semi-permanent. The homestays are near #1 and if need be, you might be able to ask the guard to walk you from one village to the next. There is a "sidewalk" between #1 and #2, but it is somewhat deserted. That said, I know the younger students who were in homestays ventured out at night (Wed night is ladies' night at the bar in Portreo and they made a time of it as evidenced by the number of "slow-movers" at school on Thurs morning).
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Old Apr 16th, 2008, 04:30 PM
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Cattle on the loose, huh? And here I was having worries about scorpions and snakes ! I'm hoping not to find any of those in my room.
I'm not a partier, so I'm guessing my evenings will be spent on tarea.
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