First Time to Costa Rica - Quick Question

Old Dec 26th, 2007, 02:14 PM
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First Time to Costa Rica - Quick Question

My fiancée and I are headed to Costa Rica for our honeymoon. We'll be there in mid-May, 2008 for two weeks. We are both young (30's), well traveled, in shape and love the outdoors. We're excited!

Currently, we're struggling with one key issue:

Is the best idea to take a 100% packaged tour from a well-reputed company? That is, a two-week tour that includes transportation, hotels, tours, etc.

OR...., is it a better idea simply to pick two or three regions we'd like to travel to, select a high quality hotel/resort in each region, and then work to plan our trip, with a bit more flexibility, from these locations? We're going to stay in nicer places (it is our honeymoon!)...and in doing research, these places all seem to have tours ready to go that originate from the hotel/resort.

I guess we're thinking, why plan every exact detail of the trip in advance if we don't have to! Then again, if we plan the trip more on our own, is there a good chance we'll be locked out of some of the more popular tours (e.g. zip lining, rafting) because we're not part of a larger tour group?

...any thoughts are appreciated. thank you!

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Old Dec 26th, 2007, 04:44 PM
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Absolutely, for flexibility, and the ability to use your time as you please, choose 2 or 3 areas, high end hotels, and go from there. You won't have any trouble in May choosing activities to do. You won't be locked out of anything. It's a great time to visit, and you'll have a ball! Enjoy! The planning is half the fun! Or one fourth. . . .

Congratulations!
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Old Dec 26th, 2007, 05:49 PM
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I think Costa Rica could be a great honeymoon! Congrats! I agree with shillmac and would go with your second option, choosing regions and working from there. You'll have more flexibility, privacy, and choice.

When I planned an anniversary/ birthday trip to Costa Rica last year, I wanted to handpick an itinerary, but not have to worry about details on the ground. I researched and choose regions and hotels (Bosque del Cabo in the Osa, a couple nights near San Jose, and a few nights birdwatching in San Gerardo de Dota.) I then found a company that would book the rooms, private transfers, and domestic flights. I priced it on my own and compared it to their cost, and it was very close in cost. This allowed me to feel like I had backup in CR but was still doing exactly what I wanted to.

It was my first trip to Costa Rica (and to Central America), and I would probably just make the arrangements myself if I went a second time, but for a first trip (and one that I wanted to be romantic and relaxing), I was happy I'd made that choice. I'm happy to provide the company or other details if you're interested in that option.

Have fun planning!
Melissa
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Old Dec 26th, 2007, 06:30 PM
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Thanks shillmac and Melissa. Helpful info!

Melissa, can you provide the name of the company you used to book hotels and domestic travel? That might be a good option for us.

Furthermore, if we had to pick only two or three areas in CR to travel to where should we go? We like to hike, bike, raft, zip line, dive and enjoy beautiful scenery. Also, if anyone has stayed in any luxury hotels that were noteworthy please let us know, we'd like to live it up a bit on our honeymoon!
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Old Dec 26th, 2007, 06:57 PM
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You've come to the right place for advice; this board is full of folks who've gone to CR many, many times, and their good advice helped me with my trip.

I am among the fans of Bosque del Cabo, which could be great for an outdoor loving couple. I also did a fabulous 1-day whitewater rafting trip on the Rio Pacuare, and I would love to return and do an overnight. I'm sure many people will want to weigh in on your question!

The company we used was Costa Rican Trails; I know they also have package group tours (a colleague recommended them to me after she did a group trip) but I was pleased to learn they also set things up for independent travelers. Their web site has lots of hotel/region info, though I had selected my itinerary from guidebooks and message boards and then just used their site to confirm my choices. I've also heard good things about Costa Rica Expeditions, though I don't have any personal experience.
Keep us posted as you plan!
Melissa
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Old Dec 26th, 2007, 11:54 PM
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We did a two week trip at the end of November and found it very easy to book our hotels and transportation ourselves. We decided which tours we wanted to do once we got there and were very happy with how things worked out. I felt our trip was well paced as we wanted to do a lot of relaxing along the way. In two weeks we stayed in San Jose (first and last night for convenience near airport - Marriott - very nice), Arenal (Lost Iguana), Manuel Antonio (Buena Vista Villas - very nice) and then the Osa (Bosqe del Cabo - "simple luxury" - we loved it).

It was very easy to plan the transportation between each place (we hired a driver and also took a domestic flight from Manuel Antonio to Puerto Jimenez).

I would highly recommend planning and booking things yourself. You will get just the trip you want and there are so many helpful people on this board!
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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 05:01 AM
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I'm in the same camp - book everything yourself, it's very easy, most places have websites. I'm in your age range and I travel down there by myself all the time and never had an issue. Not to mention many hotels are very helpful with arranging day tours, transportation etc for you. If you love the outdoors & wildlife, definitely visit Bosque del Cabo!
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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 06:25 AM
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Our first trip to CR was just a day long, from a cruise ship. We fell in love with the place and its people and knew we had to go back. The second was a package tour and we loved every bit of it. It was a private tour and had a lot of flexibility because we were the only people on it. If there had been others, we might have hated it. We learned far more from the driver/guide than we would have if we had gone it alone. It was a great introduction to the country and a good preparation for return trips. Now we just make our own arrangements. There are probably a lot of people who would or have enjoyed ONE package tour, but just don't spend a lot of time on forums.
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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 06:54 AM
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Do look into a couple of nights at Peace Lodge, either at the beginning of your trip or at the end. It's about an hour away from the airport--a fabulous hotel built on the beautiful grounds of La Paz Waterfall Garden.

Punta Islita also gets good reviews over on the Pacific Coast.

Bosque del Cabo is, of course, a beautiful place--very hard to beat!

Those 3 hotels alone would give you a fabulous honeymoon. However, the Arenal area is an excellent area to visit and I'd hate for you to miss it.

With 2 weeks, you should be able to work in 3 nights there. Perhaps start out with Peace Lodge, head up to Arenal (or vice versa, depending on arrival time), fly to Punta Islita and back for 3 nights, fly to Bosque del Cabo and back for 4 nights, then finish up in San Jose (Hotel Grano de Oro) with that rafting trip, perhaps even the overnight version!

If you'd like to do less moving, then drop Punta Islita and spend 5-6 nights at Bosque del Cabo. As you are probably realizing, the options are endless!

There are also a couple of wonderful hotels down on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula (south of Punta Islita)--at Playa Santa Teresa: Flor Blanca and Casa Chameleon--both have been reviewed as great honeymoon getaways. You can fly there as well.
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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 10:33 AM
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We found it so easy to book our trips ourselves. I just poked around on this site and asked questions, and we loved everything we did - you really don't need to use a tour company unless that's your preference. I'd look at the Lost Iguana, the Peace Lodge, and Bosque del Cabo.
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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 04:07 PM
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Hi Everyone! This is 'tdrucker's' fiancée! Thank you all for the great advice. It's been so helpful! We look forward to posting a proposed itinerary here soon and look forward to everyone's feedback. What a great forum!

We do have one more topic to query all of you on before setting the itinerary - diving and rafting.

DIVING - We're both PADI certified divers but haven't dived in a couple of years and want to do easier diving (but not snorkeling!). This means no 7-day live-aboards. Where are the best places to go diving in Costa Rica that can be done in a day?

RAFTING - Also, we've both rafted and want to know what's the best river and rafting company (website?) for doing a one-day or two-day rafting trip in the Class III/IV range? And what’s the best way of getting there (raft up/drive back? airplane upriver/raft downriver? etc.). Also, is a Class V rafting trip too crazy? It looks tempting, but do you have to have more expert training to handle the Class V rapids?

-thank you!
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Old Dec 27th, 2007, 08:37 PM
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Congrats and I'm sure you'll have a fun time planning your honeymoon! I concur with planning it yourself instead of an AI tour. First, you can learn so much just from researching before you go, also you can save a bunch doing the same things, and you can always get rec's for guides on specific days if you desire. You have been given some great ideas here, my favorite is Bosque del Cabo, for sure. For rafting you'll probably want the Pacuare and there are some 1 and 2 day trips that depart from San Jose. There is a diving day trip from Osa if you stay at BDC that's supposed to be pretty good too. Happy planning!
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Old Dec 28th, 2007, 11:48 AM
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Hi renebene,
Last week I did 4 dives by Catalina's Islands . The visibility was very poor. I would not suggest to do diving there, it's not as spectacular as in Caribbean or Red Sea. I think diving is NOT a MUST in CR, and could be skipped.
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Old Dec 28th, 2007, 11:51 AM
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Agreed, if you've been diving to places with tons of fish, coral and clear waters, CR may be disappointment. Not to say it isn't done, but it's not a huge selling point in CR.
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Old Dec 28th, 2007, 03:59 PM
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We didn't dive, but we did do snorkeling in CR - it was bad, and I wouldn't do it again. Visibility was very poor.
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Old Dec 29th, 2007, 07:24 AM
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Hey folks. Thanks so much for the great information!...especially on the diving. great stuff.

Here's an update on our itinerary. In our fervent discussions last night, we decided to cut out some of the travel and keep things simple. It is our honeymoon, so there you go. Here it is:

-May 8: Arrive to San Jose at 9AM - car directly to Arenal. We'll stay at either Lost Iguana, Tabacon or Arenal Kioro.
-May 9 - 11: in Arenal
-May 12: fly from Arenal to Oso Penninsula. Stay at Bosque del Cabo.
-May 13 - 17: in Oso Penninsula
-May 18: Depart Oso Penninsula to San Jose. Our flight out of San Jose is at 6pm.

Basically, we have 3 days and 4 nights in Arenal....and 5 days and 6 nights in Oso Penninsula.

Pretty simple, yes? Well...this is because we struggled with the two items below.

The first is rafting. We originally had an overnight rafting trip to Pacuare at the end of the itinerary. In our research, however, we learned that there is good rafting around both Arenal and the Oso Penninsula. Are we completely wrong about this? Can we cut out Pacure and still get great rafting in?

The second is Monteverde. It seems like the best hotels in the Northern Plains are in Arenal as opposed to Monteverde. Note that we're normally not the type to spend $$$ on a luxury resort, but, once again, it's the honeymoon coming in to play here. We're thinking that we can stay in Arenal, get everything we can out of the area, and do a day trip to Monteverde. Is this do-able?

any feedback is appreciated! thank you!


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Old Dec 29th, 2007, 09:03 AM
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The Lost Iguana would be a good choice for you; it's set a little outside of town with beautiful views of the volcano; we loved it and thought it was very romantic. We even had a jacuzzi tub on our balcony. I wouldn't count on making a day trip to Monteverde - it's not an easy trek to get there due to the roads. If you go, you'd want to spend some time there. The Osa is beautiful, and BdC is great; you might want to request the Mariposa cabin - it's known as the honeymoon cabin and is on the end so has a little more privacy. Congratulations on your marriage!
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Old Dec 29th, 2007, 06:27 PM
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Adding my kudos to the others, you will love Costa Rica for your honeymoon! If you are heading to the Pacific mid-Pacific coast near Jaco, do stay at Los Suenos Marriott Resort.
Absolutely gorgeous grounds, pool and super romantic ambiance. Lots of fun tours arranged out of the tours office on site. We booked the day before. The horseback and walking tour to the waterfall was awesome.
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Old Dec 30th, 2007, 11:03 PM
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We did 3 nights at Lost Iguana and 4 nights at Bosque del Cabo of our 14 night CR trip. I could have easily done another night (or two) at both places.
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