First timer to Costa Rica open to suggestions...

Old Feb 10th, 2004, 06:51 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
First timer to Costa Rica open to suggestions...

My wife and I are in the beginning stage of planning a week long trip to Costa Rica in mid May. I have heard wonderful things about the country and want to balance seeing "the best" sites with relaxation along the Pacific coast. The volcanos and canopy ventures are of particular interest. Also, I would not mind attempting to see if I can still surf after nearly 15-years. I am also curious about getting around. Does one rent a car, fly, or utilize the countries transportation system? Are there all inclusive resorts along the coast that are recommended? Obviosly we are in the preliminary stages of planning and are open to nearly any suggestions and insights to make this a memorable anniversary vacation. We will be flying into San Jose and any itinerary suggestions are welcomed.
telbic1 is offline  
Old Feb 11th, 2004, 04:25 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 239
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Dear telbic1,
Since you are just in the beginning stage of planning the trip, I recommend you read the post "some thoughts about planning a trip to Costa Rica" (I'll bring it to the top). I think it can help you.
Please, write me directly if you need any more help with planning your trip, or with any information or advice.
Pura Vida,
Neta Talmor
costaricafinca is offline  
Old Feb 11th, 2004, 10:05 AM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you Neta for your valuable input. I will keep this advice in mind as we plan our trip. As we fill in the details I may want to ask for some more of your insights.

Thanks,

Tim
telbic1 is offline  
Old Feb 11th, 2004, 04:29 PM
  #4  
Iza
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 800
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
telbic1, I think for a week you should plan on visiting 2 destinations within Costa Rica. A typical itinerary would be something like this: 1st and last night near San Jose (this depends on your flights, but most people find it necessary to stay the night), then drive or take a shuttle bus to Arenal for a couple of nights (you can see the volcano, take a canopy tour etc), then head to the coast for 3-4 nights for relaxation on the beach (Manuel Antonio is a great destination, Tambor area, Samara/Nosara, Tamarindo area are also very popular).

We prefer to stay at small independent hotels rather than AIs and there are plenty of beautiful places to choose from in all price ranges. Costa Rica is a safe country to travel in so you don't need to be "walled off" in an AI.

Transportation: all options are open and quite often people will utilize several during the same trip. Flying is fast and convenient but there are no flights to Arenal. You can rent a car and drive to most places if you feel fairly confident about traveling in a foreign country. There are tourist shuttle buses that go to most tourist destination and most people have been very happy with that service. You can also take public transportation (buses) which is least expensive albeit the slowest mode of transportation.

There are several of us on this board who really love Costa Rica and have travelled there on several occassions, so please feel free to ask more questions as you move further along in your plans.
Iza is offline  
Old Feb 11th, 2004, 05:51 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 18
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Tim,
My wife, kids and I are going to Costa Rica for the first time this March. We came to this board late, but have found it very helpful. Our stay will be a few days longer than yours, but similar in that we want to focus on a few locations and do a little surfing.

After months of work, our itinerary is:

NIGHT 1- Hotel Buena Vista. It is on the way to Arenal, free transfer from airport, has a restaurant, views, and breakfast is included.

NIGHTS 2 - 4 - Tabacon - cross fingers for night lava flow viewing, daytime canopy tour, waterfalls, and hot springs. Based on what we've learned on this board, staying at the Tabacon may be overpriced and 3 nights might be too much, but our kids love pools and are dying to see a volcano, so a longer stay is worth it to us.

NIGHTS 5-9 - A villa we booked through the Harbor Reef Hotel, Nosara. Surfing lessons for 2 or 3 days, and fingers crossed for Olive Ridley turtle viewing at Ostional. There are at least 2 surf school/camps in Nosara (Corky Carroll and Surf Safari). We ruled out Tamarindo due to crowds and other issues, and realize that Nosara may be a bit sleepy, but a little family downtime is ok by me.

NIGHTS 10-11 - Finca Rosa Blanca - A little B&B luxury, a day trip to Volcan Barva, Poas, and/or La Paz Waterfall.

Then home.

We have decided to get private transfers rather than renting a car and driving. This decision will undoubtedly add to the cost of our trip and reduce our flexibility, but since it will be our first time in the country and we have kids, I really didn't wznt to stress about directions, getting lost, worrying about arriving places before sunset, etc. Next time in Costa Rica we will be a little more adventurous.

I hope that our itinerary is a help to you in your planning.



Americano is offline  
Old Feb 12th, 2004, 06:10 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 63
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Americano, Wow! Your itinerary is just identical to the one I'm trying to plan with my family for this summer (our kids are 10 and 12). We were thinking about flying into Liberia, then Arenal, then Tamarindo beach -- but recent posts have had us searching for another Guanacaste beach for surfing lessons for our kids. Can you share any additional information -- web sites, etc?? I would be so grateful, Katie ([email protected])
Golondrina is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2004, 05:30 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 42
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I can't speak for the guanacaste area but I'm told that at Manuel Antonio they teach surfing and that the landscape is incredibly beautiful. Hotel Si Como No is known as a great hotel for kids and has lots of wild life that enjoy the lush grounds. We are going in June with our two boys ages 9 and 10. Good luck on your trip!
chinahart is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2004, 05:53 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 18
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Golondrina,
I sent you an e-mail.
Americano is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2004, 10:34 AM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Wow. This message board has been very helpful and I am appreciative for all the input. I have also been doing much reading and web surfing. In one week I have gone from being completely ignorant about Costa Rica to feeling like I have already been there. Once I have formulated my plans a bit more I look forward to posting and receiving further feedback. Thank you again. Tim
telbic1 is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2004, 10:38 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,194
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
While Manuel Antonio is certainly one of the most beautiful spots in the country, the surf there is slim and none. I've stayed there twice, and been through the area a couple other times and there was never any surf. I can't imagine where they teach surf lessons there! If you could post more info on that, I'd appreciate it! Thanks!
Ally is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2004, 10:42 AM
  #11  
TVL
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 132
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Telbic1,
I just returned from Costa Rica and wrote a Costa Rica #1 and #2 report. I hope this helps! We decided to go to MA and Arenal for our trip! If you have any questions from the information I will be happy to answer them! Have a great trip!!
TVL is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2004, 10:45 AM
  #12  
TVL
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 132
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Americano,
I read your reply to Telbic1. I just got back from the Tabacon and loved it! I thought you maybe interested in my trip report Costa Rica #2 (not Costa Rica #1). Thanks to Travel talk I received so much info as well and I wanted to write some lesser known info about the Tabacon and our trip to help. If you have any questions I will be happy to answer them. Have a wonderful time!!!
TVL is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2004, 11:56 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 18
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
TVL,
I read Trip Report # 2 and found it very helpful. Thanks! I am sure that I'll be asking you some questions as my departure date gets closer (4 weeks).
Americano is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2004, 03:03 PM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
From all the excellent suggestions I've received and my research these are some of my preliminary plans for our first 7-day stay in Costa Rica this May. Please feel free to offer any feedback or suggestions.

Fly into San Jose on Grupo Taca airlines (I have never flown this airline, however, the arrival and departure times fit well into my plans. Any feedback from others regarding this airline are most welcomed!!!)

Rent a 4x4 Terios from Hula Rent-a-Car for the week (they seemed to have the best rate. Any feedback on the company and issues with the insurace are welcomed). My wife and I like the adventure and freedom having a car offers, although I realize with this come potential stress and headache.

Day 1-2 Arenal Volcano.

Stay at Tabacon Hot Springs Resort in a Jr. Suite. Do the Hot Springs, Canopy Tour, La Fortuna Falls, Volcano Tour, and a Spa Treatment.

Day 3-6 Playa Nosara.

Stay at Harbor Reef Lodge in the Playa Pelada Suite. See if I can still surf without drowning, go fishing, horseback riding, lay on the beach, and drive around to nearby towns or beaches. The Frommer's Guide indicates this hotel caters primarily to surfers and fisherman. I am wondering is this is a good or bad thing as I would not necessarily categorize myself as either although I enjoy both...Any feedback from others that have stayed here would be welcomed.

Day 7 Return to San Jose. Return car and fly out in the evening. Hopefully begin plans for our return trip.

I wanted to limit the trip to two destinations so that it was not too hectic. How do these plans sound?
telbic1 is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2004, 04:35 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 29
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Your itinerary sounds pretty good. A friend of mine always uses Taca to meet us in Costa Rica, he loves it and has never had a problem with it. Your wife will love the spa treatments at Tabacon, very relaxing! It will take you a few hours to drive to Tabacon, are you arriving during the day? If so it shouldn't be a problem. I find that at least 2 nights in Tabacon is the way to go, there is soo much to see and do there these days.

May I recommend going to dinner at the Arenal Lodge one night? From the parking lot of Tabacon turn right and follow the road. You will go over the lake and then you will begin to see signs for the lodge which will be on your right. I warn you, the road up to the lodge once you make the turn can be a little freaky as it has many curves, and it is pretty steep and very narrow. But the view of the volcano from there is amazing! I recommend getting there before the sun sets and taking your time with dinner so you are there after the sun has gone down. If you're lucky it will be a clear night and you might get a cool lava show. We were there for our honeymoon a few years ago and the "show" was amazing, even though it was the wet season. The restaurant is a little pricy, for Costa Rica, but I have always found my meals there to be worth it. And the onion soup is fabulous if you like that sort of thing.

I hope you and your wife have a great time!
Patty
Cakes is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2004, 05:34 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You didn't say what time you are flying out in the evening, but you will want to plan on plenty of time to drive back to SJO from the beach. Although you will be told 4-5 hours, that is under optimal conditions! If you have heavy traffic and a lot of trucks chugging up the many mountain inclines at 5mph, it is always possible for it to take an hour or so longer! Plan for it just in case! You are going to have a great time. You have the perfect plan for one week--two locations. Hope you enjoy Nosara. . .haven't been there yet (in 6 trips to C. R.), but will be checking it out in March!
shillmac is offline  
Old Feb 14th, 2004, 04:40 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 101
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Dear telbic, I saw your plan and also wonder what time your flight is. We drove from San Jose to Nosara last July and it is not an easy drive. Because it was rainy season there were some streams to cross. The roads are not that good. I did not stay at Harbor Reef, but we enjoyed Nosara very much. It was our third trip to Costa Rica. You should see Nosara now while it is quiet and calm. We enjoyed lunch at La Mariposa (try the fresh tuna) and bought some delicious bakery at Cafe Paris, I think it is called. the town of Nosara is not where the hotels are located. We never did even drive to the town. For some reason it is very hard to find your way around in Nosara. I felt very dumb but then Iza said the same thing. We ate at a wonderful italian restaurant which I think was called Robertos. The beach was gorgeous and nearly deserted. We met a family who had given their children surf lessons from Corkys as a graduation present. I will be anxious to read a trip report when you get back. Also, realize that you will need time to return the car, pay the departure tax and go through security before your flight.
karenf is offline  
Old Feb 15th, 2004, 01:00 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 150
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Wow! This area seems to be growing in popularity. My family is doing an almost identical trip to Arenal then on to Nosara. Can 't decide between Villa Taype and Harbor Reef? Any comments? Also are there places to eat or shop within waliking distance to the Guiones beach area or does one really need to have a car? Kids want to learn to surf and dad is trying to recapture his lost youth.
SrFlojo is offline  
Old Feb 16th, 2004, 07:45 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,194
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
telbic1 and SrFlojo,
I have been to Nosara 5 or 6 times, last trip in 2002. As for the two hotels, we usually stay at Villa Taype as it has a great pool. The pool at Harbor Reef is hardly more than a large hot tub, and in the rainy season it stays very murkey because a palm palapa hangs over it, so all the dust runs into this tiny pool. If a pool is important to your family, Villa Taype is a better choice. I will say that the food at Harbor Reef is better. Their restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and has always been good. Villa Taype includes breakfast in the price of the rooms, but food is inconsistant.
I did have a good cheviche for lunch there on my last trip, but we never eat dinner there. Infact, you really never know if they are going to have a cook at night or not. You can walk to Harbor Reef, and the hotel right across the little street, only about 25 yards away is very, very good. A little further up is Cafe Paris which is also good, and Marlin Bill's is across from that for great, but expensive food for the area. The Pizza place just down the road from Cafe Paris and marlin Bill's is also very good. The best places to eat are the 'Tico' restaurants in town. Great food and VERY cheap but you need a car to get there.
As for the rooms at the two hotels, the 'regular' rooms at Villa Taype are getting very run down, and as the hotel is on the market, there are no attempts to fix anything. The new, big rooms are very, very nice though quite a bit more expensive. We only stayed at Harbor Reef once (because I like a bigger, nicer pool) and liked it alot. We only stayed in one of their 'standard' rooms but it was quite comfortable and clean. I have not noticed that Harbor Reef cateres to 'surfers and fisherman', because at the restaurant and pool they all look like typical toursit to me so that would not be a problem at all for telbic1.
This year, we will probably stay at Iquana Lodge as they have some new rooms and have added a pool to the property. We are also going in May, but the biggining of May so probably won't see you there.
As for surfing, you've picked the right place. It's a very 'forgiving' wave and the beach break has no rocks to worry about. If you find yourself doing really well, there are more challenging waves about 20 minutes away in Ostanial. Have a great trip!
Ally is offline  
Old Feb 16th, 2004, 02:18 PM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks all for the input. Yes, our flight arrives in San Jose early morning and departs early evening, so we should have enough time to drive with this itinerary. However, I will be sure to allot plenty of time on our day of departure. Do I need to arrive at the airport more than two hours before departure to get through customs and pay the departure tax mentioned??
telbic1 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:24 PM.