CR-Itinerary and Questions

Feb 2nd, 2007, 09:34 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 4
CR-Itinerary and Questions

Hello to all in this great Forum!
OK, this will be a long one. Here goes...
My name is Rob, and a 1st-Timer going to CR for 11 Days (May 13-23)Green Season, with my two adult children...Daughter 24 and Son 21. My gift to them, "and me", before they graduate college and are on their own.
I'd appreciate your comments on the following itinerary I'll be booking soon. I have been dreaming of Costa Rica for years and seriously researching like crazy for for a few months. Trying to keep the expenses reasonable, and to see and do as much as we can. All the while maintaing a balance, so we can absorb all CR has to offer wihout overdoing it.
Day 1: Arrive at noon in San Jose, Free Transfer from airport to Villas Colibri in Alajuela. 5-10 minutes from airport.
Anyone ever stay here? Looks good on the web (but have seen no reviews)and low cost for a villa with 3 beds, kitchen and livingroom, pool, breakfast, etc. Maybe do a local tour, taxi to town, or just relax in their Gardens and Pool after traveling.
Day 2: All Day 4-in-1 Tour (By Local CR Tour Group)to Poas/LaPaz/Sarapiqui/Braulio. Looking forward to Poas and hiking, La Paz..butterfly and hummingbird gardens & Falls!
Day 3-5: Transfer in AM to Volcan Arenal via Grayline or Interbus...preferring not to rent a car. Any Differences between Grayline and Interbus?
Arrive at Arenal Paraiso Hotel...with Lava Views and hot spring pools. To rent a Superior cabin and will ask if they can arrange a 3rd bed. Anyone recommend a better superior cabin over the others for the view / ambiance?
Spending 2-1/2 Days here to do Zip Lines, a Taxi to La Fortuna trailhead and Hike the Falls, maybe a horseback ride or a volcano hike, the Must-Do Tabacon hot springs for late afternoon (to take pictures) and night time thermal soak.
For 1 Day, we were planning to take the "Rio Celeste" Guided Hike north of Arenal near Volcan Tenorio. On the Web pictures and video, this hike looks so cool to see two "clear" streams from the Volcano merge into one...and the chemical reaction causes the one to turn bright "turquoise". There's also a waterfall into a turquoise pool for swimming. Looks "magical". Anyone ever do this Guided Hike? Did you see birds, insects, wildlife along the way? I'm hoping its' worth sacrificing a whole morning and afternoon (10 hrs)?
Day 6-9: Transfer in AM to Manuel Antonio. Again, Grayline or Interbus. I hear this is about a 6 hr transfer on a good day?
Planning to stay at La Posada Private Jungle Bungalows for 3 more full days. I have read way too many "good things" about La Posada, plus it's got a bungalow (Jungle Room)with 3 beds, and very close to the Park Entrance. It borders the Park, and the monkeys visit in the evening.
Planning on the Park hikes and enjoying the wildlife, beaches and ocean, checking out the local restaurants and night-life. Maybe do a snorkling tour. Anyone do this? Equipment rentals nearby? Costs?
Day 10: Transfer with Grayline or Interbus back to Alajuela and the Villas Colibri for our Last Night.
Day 11: Free Transfer to Airport and back to York, PA with memories that will have to last until I can get back again, I'm sure!
More questions to the Forum:
Money...USD's useable for taxi's / restaurants in-country? or get some colones at my bank before leaving? What colone denominations are best? I will use Visa for hotels and tours. Are Travelers Checks usable or more trouble than their worth?
I really don't want carry a wad of bills if unnecessary.
Any concerns with making my hotel reservations on-line or via fax with Visa card? Any security/identity concerns I should be aware of with these transactions? I know I should get confirmation numbers and peoples' names to ensure hotel room "is really booked' for us.

I await your kind replies for this new-bees' first foray with this Forum, and the advise you bring. Upon return, I "will" post our Trip Report to aid others who are in my shoes, and expound on a first- timers' experience in Costa Rica.
For the many of you that keep going back... your descriptions sound so fresh and alive....always something new that stirs you about this county. I'm so anxious for that same experience.
Best Regards,
Rob






CR_1st_Timer is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2007, 10:09 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,224
Hi,

sorry I don't have any informed feedback as I'm just starting my own research for a trip with 3 adults, 1 child. (But damn. sounds great to me!)

It sounds like you're initially staying in locations not too far from the SJO airport? Do you think it's not necessary to drive 5 hours from San Jose in order to appreciate CR for an 8 day trip? It sounds like you've done tons of research, I'm just starting tonight...

fishee is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 01:22 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,224
Hey, if you haven't purchased airfare yet, I'd stongly suggest you check out www.nwa.com or travelocity or orbitz. Change your return date to May 22, you could move up your departure to the 12th. There's an insance sale from NW hubs.

I just bought 4 tickets for me and my sister's family cause the tix were so cheap and I'm kind of freaking out about how to plan this.

We'll be there for only 8 nights in May. We all really love to snorkel and there will be a 7 yr old boy with us. They like to hike and to be outdoors but my sister has a snake phobia. I'm not crazy about totally roughing it and I like unusual lodgings like bungalows or villas, not hotels.

If you have any suggestions about which areas we should head towards, I'd really appreciate any help.

I'm considering this place because there was a beach and the jungle for them to hike, but I don't know the area - only that it's 4 hrs from the airport:

http://www.almondsandcorals.com/suite.html

Also considering this place, sounds closer but doesn't seem as interesting as the first in terms of surroundings.

http://www.shawandhalodge.com/bungalows.htm

My sister would like to stay at two different area during our visit, I have no idea where to start or how to do this. Any help would be appreciated.
fishee is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 03:24 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 333
That sounds like a great trip. We used travelers checks to pay for our hotels without any problems. (I do not like to pay credit card fees on large purchases) We were able to use US dollars everywhere, but I think you get better rates in colones. Be sure to bring newish bills in small denominations. You do not need to change money before you go. We primarily used the change we got from our travelers checks to pay for taxis.

One thing that surprised me was on our first trip on Inerbus, they had us pay for all of our trips. This was ok, as we had budgeted for it,it just caught me by surprise. They were very professional and I recommend them. Did not use Greyline so I can not compare them.
kencolian is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 05:05 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,224
Traveler Checks? I haven't used traveler checks since 1991. Aren't there ATM's available?

The (eco)tourist industry looks pretty developed in CR and I was shocked at the cost of accomodations. Never been to Latin America, sorry if these are dumb questions.

thanks for the warning about the drive -- we will stay in town that first night and take off in the morning.
fishee is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 06:08 AM
  #6  
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Thanks for the advise Kencolian. I forgot about the extra adders visa charges for out-of-country/currency charges. I'll check with the hotels to see if they accept travelers checks and use the card as a reservation place holder, and use the change for taxi's, etc. Although, I have heard that some hotels will charge the full amount when you make the reservation. I'll get the scoop on that before booking. Good to hear you were satisfied with Interbus.
Please explain what you meant about Interbus payments. Could you pay through your hotel, or had to pay them directly?
Also, how far in advance did you have to make a reservation?
CR_1st_Timer is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 06:38 AM
  #7  
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Posts: 4
Fishee...you got a great deal on NWA airfaire! Took your advise and searched from Baltimore (BWI), but NWA was much higher cost, 3 stops and inconvenient times. I'm getting the best rates and travel times so far with AA. I'm sure others flying from the West coast will welcome the Tip.
The dates we chose were based on going right after their college finals, and before they begin their summer jobs, so not much flexibility.
I can't comment too much on your plans, but sounds like you have interests on the Carribean side (Limon). After reading a lot, it seems to me that after you determine how many days and nights you will be in CR, to choose the the areas/activities you have an interest in. Then, see how far they are from each other in driving time. Then search for hotels in your budget that are central to these activites.
I bought a bunch of Tour Books at Amazon and a good map to get a perspective: Costa Rica International Travel Map(waterproof),Fodor's "See It Costa Rica", Costa Rica for Dummies (that would be me),Exploring Costa Rica (by Tico Times) and Frommers Costa Rica 2007... There's tons of books out there and cheaper to purchase on-line. All these and many others + the web, will overload you with information...and great choices. Too many choices for just one trip. It has helped me to put the itinerary on paper just to see if the plan is feasable and within an acceptable comfort zone. Good luck with your planning.



CR_1st_Timer is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 07:35 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
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Hi Rob,

The enthusiastic tone of your post reminds me of myself last year while planning my first trip to Costa Rica!

This forum is a truly invaluable resource. You'll find lots of great info here.

My first trip took place in early December and exceeded every expectation I had! We also did the Arenal/Manuel Antonio circuit which really is a terrific itinerary for first time visitors. We loved Costa Rica so much that we are probably going back down there later this year.

I remember seeing some recent posts regarding Rio Celeste. I know that Shillmac (frequent poster here, and very helpful to the first time CR visitors on the forum) has been there and enjoyed it. Hopefully she'll chime in for you. If you decide the Rio Celeste tour is too lengthy an undertaking, the Cano Negro tour out of La Fortuna is terrific (slow boat ride as opposed to hiking); lots of wildlife and interesting overview of that part of CR.

We enjoyed Tabacon Hot Springs, and did the Sky Trek ziplines which were great, although you'll have the Arenal Paraiso lines right there at your hotel which get good reviews as well...

In MA, I would definitely recommend hiring a guide for your first visit to the Nat'l Park. You'll see a lot more animals that way. The second beach inside the park seems to be the best for swimming (and is very picturesque); others can have strong riptides.

We thought about doing a snorkeling tour there, but ended up doing the Damas Mangrove tour instead (which was very nice!). I know there's an Quepos outfit called Planet Dolphin that operates sailing/snorkeling tours. They were listed in my Lonely Planet Guide book, so you may want to check into them.

Regarding money, Arenal and MA are popular tourist destinations, so I wouldn't think you would have any trouble at all using USD for taxi's etc... We used USD for restaurants, tour guide tips, and souvenirs everywhere we went without difficulty. The only place this might not work would be out in the more remote countryside away from the tourist hubs. We only needed an ATM once and found one easily enough in MA.

As Kencolian mentioned, bring lots of USD in small denominations (1s and 5s). This works out well for tipping and paying for small items. We paid for our hotels and more pricey tours with credit cards. Traveler's checks may be a good idea, but just make sure that your hotels accept them (not everybody does). I also wouldn't expect to be able to use them for tours or souvenirs -- best to check with the vendors first.

Fishee,

Thanks for posting about the great airfare you were able to purchase. That's amazing! I know we paid over 400$ last year from Florida. I've seen some other decent airfare deals popping up lately from other airlines as well. Pays to keep your eyes open!

Both of the hotels you list on the caribbean side have gotten some good reviews here. Do a search on them here, and you'll find some good info.

My post has turned into a mini-novel so I'd better shut up!

Good luck with your planning Rob and Fishee. You are both in for a real treat!
cmerrell is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 02:32 PM
  #9  
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Hi Cmerrell,
Thank you for all the information, recommendations and tips.
I just did a "search" on the Rio Celeste on this forum and found some postings from shillmac indicating it was a great hike. I'm thinking that it could be a trip highlite to get away from the beaten path to the one a little less traveled...and carve some memories.
I see that Costa Rica is "calling you" back for another visit.....I think this is what I'll be in for in the future too.
Thanks again,
Rob

CR_1st_Timer is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2007, 02:54 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
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The Rio Celeste is a nice daytrip from Arenal-- and definitely "off the path"---you don't see too much posted on Fodor's about it.
shillmac is offline  
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