First Timers to Costa Rica

Jun 9th, 2004, 03:02 PM
  #1  
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First Timers to Costa Rica

Hi,

I'm planning a trip to Costa Rica at the end of July. I'm debating whether to join a eco-tour or do it independently. I don't speak Spanish which is a concern.

I plan on spending two days in La Fortuna/Arenal for a volcano hike, visiting the Tabacon Springs and checking out a indigenous reserve.

Another two days at Monteverde doing a sky trek and horseback riding.

And then onto Manual Antonio for a mangrove tour, rafting and visiting the National Park.

Finally ending the trip in San Jose.

I'm looking for a active vacation. Is there something else that is worth doing at these locations while I am there? Also, for a trip of this length (8 days) and with these activities, what is a reasonable budget? I'm not interested in staying in fancy hotels or having steaks dinners every night. Just the basics.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated.
firsttimers is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 04:00 PM
  #2  
 
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I personally would recommend doing the trip on your own. I'm not a big fan of prepackaged tours. You get stuck being on their schedule and generally pay a lot more.
LA_FadeAway is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 04:07 PM
  #3  
lvk
 
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I agree with LA. I got a quote from a travel agent for a few package tours. The part that made me nervous was paying 100% in advance (which most agents required). I did some research (this board is indespensible for that!)and booked everything on my own and am saving about 30%.
lvk is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 04:18 PM
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Hi! YOu're going to love Costa Rica. You will have your hands full with 3 locations in 8 days, but, if you're up to it, it can be done! Really, don't worry about no Espanol. In the areas you will be traveling, there will be plenty of people involved in the tourism, hotel, and restaurant business who will speak English. It would be good for you to learn a few phrases before you go, but speaking Spanish certainly isn't necessary to enjoy Costa Rica.

We travel a lot like you describe. Simple, inexpensive food, usually hotels under $80 (sometimes we splurge for a night or two!), etc. I don't know if you are renting a car or using transfers such as Interbus, but I think you can do what you have described for about $1800--maybe less.

That's figuring $125 per day for hotel and food, $400 for rental or transfers, and extra cash for the activities you have described. Horseback riding, Sky Trek, Tabacon Hot Springs, tour of Manuel Antonio (it's best with a guide), etc. will probably run you $30-$60 per person per activity. Much depends on how many activities such as this that you do.

Perhaps some others will advise differently. I usually try to plan upward with the $ rather than downward-just in case something interesting comes up to do or to buy! We like to bring home a LOT of coffee, so always set aside $50 or $60 for that! Remember that your exit taxes at the airport will run $26 per person.

If you rent a car, you will need 4 wheel drive for getting in and out of Monteverde. You can arrange every one of your 4 transfers on Interbus (www.interbusonline.com) for about $200-$250 total. Safe, easy, travel in turismo mini-vans.
shillmac is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 05:57 AM
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Go independently, for sure. Probably be much cheaper.

At Arenal we enjoyed the horseback ride to the volcano. We are hikers, and the "hike" was really just a walk, and doesn't get you as close (we were told) and I don't think it walks you through the rain forest.

I would also recommend you take an hour or so and go see Fortuna Waterfall just outside of town. It's spectacular. You can do that on your own, don't need a tour. Ask your hotel for directions. I think there was a $6 entrance fee, and then there is a short, but steep hike down to the falls and you can swim there. COLD water, though, and well worth the $6. Entrance to Tabacon is now at $29 per person.

We did the kayak tour through the Damas Island Mangroves in Manuel Antonio and loved it. Cost was $65 per person included hotel pick up and a meal (depending on time of day, we had dinner).

Guided park tour in MA is $35 per person (no meals, about 3 hours). Worth the guide, though. We enjoyed the Canopy tour from MA, too, and that was about $65 with a meal.

All tours include pick up from your hotel.

At all the major tourist areas that you are going to, speaking English will not be a problem. Saying hello in Spanish is always nice, but not necessary.

We went for our honeymoon, so we split our time between budget and upscale hotels (even those were bought on luxurylink.com though). We were there for 2 weeks, and when all was said and done, we spent just under $5K for everything (including in country transportation, souvenirs, air, etc) for 2 people. You can definitely do CR inexpensively.

Enjoy
Stacey
april0404 is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 05:39 PM
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Hi Stacey
Kwoo is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 05:46 PM
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Hi Stacey
How did you pay for all your tours? Can you pay for them with credit cards? I'm surprised your guided tour to MA cost $35. I've been reading on this board that it costs $20. Or is it a different tour that you took?
thanks.
Kwoo is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 06:28 PM
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Kwoo, we also spent $35 for the 4 hour morning tour of Manuel Antonio last year. Several posters have suggested that it is just as well to walk through the park yourselves, but we had an excellent guide and enjoyed all the information he shared as well as all the wildlife, much of which we would never have spotted without him.
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Jun 11th, 2004, 04:48 AM
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In Manuel Antonio park, the wildlife (bird, toucan, monkey, sloth, iguana, etc) can usually be found high up among the trees. Unless you bring a very powerful binocular like the guides have, all you see is a brown or black dot, that is if you are good at spotting them . Better if you go with a guide (for $15 more) and after the tour, walk more of the trails, and spend some time on one of the beaches. The guide will tell you where the best place is to swim. Then, take a taxi back to your lodging.
You can do the volcano walk around Arenal on your own, but for $25, the guide was worth it. You can walk the trail with the old lava flows. Not sure if a horseback ride will take you there.
I agree with the other posters that making your own arrangements (lodging, transportation, rental) can be done easily and when you get there, buy the tours you want. No need to get a packaged 8-day tour .
banares is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 04:58 AM
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forgot to add... all tour companies will take credit cards, but with cash, you can try make a deal, particularly if you do several tours with the same company. US dollars is accepted everywhere, even grocery stores; no need to change to colones. By the way, if items are priced in $, beware - they are likely overpriced.
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Jun 11th, 2004, 05:41 AM
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banares, I notice you give a price of $15 for the guided tour of MA. But a few other posters said it was $35. I think a guide makes sense but hate to pay $35. How do we get the $15 guide? Thanks.
Kwoo is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 06:02 AM
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Kwoo, I noticed that. But $15 is incorrect. I think Banares said "$15 more" which means above what you have to pay to enter the park if you don't have a guide. That price I don't remember since we had the guide. Maybe $8 or $10 per person. . .at any rate, even at that, the difference in price is quite a bit more than $15. But, again, it's worth it. I haven't seen half day tours anywhere in the country for less than $35. They feed you a little snack if that helps any! While we were stopped for our snack (and bathroom break), our guide spotted both a viper and a boa for us and we got great photos. Only snakes we've ever seen in CR except when driving. We would never have seen them on our own! When are y ou going? I've forgotten!
shillmac is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 07:55 AM
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hi,
I did say "for $15 more"
banares is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 08:02 AM
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lvk
 
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Does children cost $35 as well? We're a family of 5, so $175 seems steep for a guided walk. Are there $ breaks for groups?
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Jun 11th, 2004, 09:27 AM
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Ivk,
Most tours offer a price break for children, depending on their age. Not sure about this one, but I suspect it would be somewhat less. You could probably check a website.
shillmac is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 09:46 AM
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I did misunderstand banares. I agree it is probably better going with a guide. I didn't realize it was a half day tour. Is the tour considered light hiking or very strenuous? WE are going in Aug. Do you know if they charge a lower rate in Aug?
Thanks!
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Jun 11th, 2004, 09:58 AM
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kwoo,
Probably the same rate year round. It's a very easy walk--4 hours of constant seeing! No up or down hill. Nice wide path--this park has a LOT of visitors. But they only allow 600 in per day--it closes when that max is reached. The day we were there, we didn't see all that many people except our tour group. A few tagged along behind us and looked at the things we looked at. That was in late July. Nice beaches to enjoy on the way. One of them we didn't get to see because of high tide, but we couldn've gone back in a little later on our own (without paying again) if we had wanted. Instead, we hung out at the public beach next to the park entrance.
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Jun 11th, 2004, 09:59 AM
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You do know that the park is closed on Mondays? Plan your trip accordingly!
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Jun 11th, 2004, 11:44 AM
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shillmac, thank you so much for your detailed response. I feel much better about this walk/hike. We won't be there on a Monday. What did you think of the public beach? Is it right next to the park? I know the beaches in MA are calm and safe (no riptides). In order to save some money, I wouldn't mind going to the public beach next to the park once or twice, but does it have riptides?
Thanks.
When are you returning to CR? Hope you post a trip report! Where will you be going?
Kwoo is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 12:48 PM
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Thanks, Kwoo. We don't go out very far and swim, but we both did go out and play in the waves (one at a time because of our stuff on the beach!). I don't think riptides are a problem here. Double check with your hotel. We "rented" a couple of chaise lounges for $1000 colones for the both of them. We bargained a bit, because we truly had hardly any cash with us. Behind the beach, there are some stalls with colorful scarves, some shops, a couple of restaurants, etc. It was good for a couple of hours. We finished our tour about 11:30 and hung out there until about 1:30 or so when we caught the bus back up to Si Como No for lunch. That afternoon it rained. This is probably going to be an absolute for this part of the country in August. So we ate our lunch, sat out on the balcony, watched the rain, rested until it stopped (after a couple of hours). We were only there 2 nights. So we just had one day to enjoy the area, and those are the things we did that day!

The next morning we went to a Butterfly Farm across from Si Como No (part of their property).

We are leaving June 21. Will return home July 15. We are going to hang out at Flamingo the better part of a week, perhaps check out Samara or Nosara (haven't been there yet). Then we'll stay a night at Vida Tropical, store our luggage, and backpack by public bus down to Savegre (hoping to see quetzals!), on to San Vito further south and near the Panamanian border for a couple of days. We'll then taxi to Golfito, take a ferry over to Puerto Jiminez and go to Bosque del Cabo on the Osa for 3 days. Back up through Dominical (we think), then return to the central valley to enjoy our last week with cooler temps! The central valley is really a great place to spend some time. Good luck to you as well!
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