helping making final trip plan - Costa Rica??

Oct 11th, 2004, 07:23 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Aug 2004
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helping making final trip plan - Costa Rica??

Hi everyone!

My husband and I have decided to take a much needed trip during the first week of December. We are leaning towards the Caribbean, but are also very tempted towards Costa Rica. Each time I read the posts, I change my mind on the best place for us! Please help me decide!!

We normally go camping/hiking/birding for our vacations but this time we want more relaxation and pampering - but we are not the super luxurious/high end type of couple. Here is what we are looking for:

Great weather in early December.

Beautiful, lush island with natural habitats or wildlife preserves (for seeing birds, mostly).

Beautiful beaches and great swimming, with possible snorkeling options.

Yummy, fresh, food and a charming/nice hotel on a decent sized beach. We can afford around $150 per night at the most. We want to feel papered but not formal.

Not too touristy, enough local flair so we feel like we have left the US - does not have to be secluded or solitary but not the ?Times Square? of Latin America.

Local attractions, restaurants, activities not too far away from hotel. Don?t want to spend a lot of time in the car.

Is the Costa Rica right for us?? Specific recommendation about where to go and stay would be very much appreciated. Thanks a million. Angi & Philip

p.s should we get a travel agent in order to get good package deals? if so, any recommendations?
Angi is offline  
Oct 12th, 2004, 04:54 PM
  #2  
 
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My standard reply. You would love Costa Rica. Try 2-3 nights at Arenal Volcano area and 4 nights at Manuel Antonio National Park. OR, if you prefer your hotel on the beach and not overlooking it, go to Montezuma for 4 nights. Costa Rica is a beautiful country. I think the reason you didn't get an immediate answer is because everyone is thinking: Where do I begin? It's all quite wonderful!
First week of December should be a good time.

Arenal is always a good choice for first timers. But there are several beach areas to choose from. Besides the two I've already mentioned, Tamarindo is worthy of mention. A fun little town. MalPais a fabulous beach, but not very close to an evening "action center". Very quiet there in the evenings. It is near Montezuma. You could fly down to the Osa Peninsula for a few days. Absolutely wonderful places to stay down there, and December is a great time to go there. There is SO much to do and see. It is a daunting task to make recommendations. Very difficult to be disappointed anywhere in the country.
shillmac is offline  
Oct 13th, 2004, 05:50 AM
  #3  
 
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Angi - you will find great travel advice on this forum, from many who travel to CR each year.

We have been 3 times, typically every other year. I was just beginning some research for Feb 2005, although my husband is leaning toward Belize this year. I wanted to do the Osa Pennisula this year - we will soon see who wins! You cannot see it all in one trip, if you love it the way we do - you will be back!

But here is a quick line up of our past trips -

1st trip - 7 night trip - Guancaste area - Northwest Pacific Beach area (all inclusive - big mistake), Monteverde Cloud Forest - Central region (Trapp Family Lodge) -
Tour Package, Vacation Express

2nd trip - 10 night trip - Manual Antonio - Central Pacific beach area (Hotel California), Arenal - central region (Arenal Paraiso Lodge), Outside San Jose (Vista Del Valle).
used TravelNet

3rd trip - 12 night trip - In town San Jose (Hotel Britannia), Tortuguero - Northern Caribbean (Mawamba Lodge), Montezuma - Southern Nicoya Pennisula beach area (El Sano Banano), La Paz - central north of SJ- (Peace Lodge) - Used the company - Costa Rica Travel Exchange, Pat Hewitt (terrific trip!)

Good luck! It is a lot to decide, but an absolutely beautiful place, with so much to do and see.
dfarmer is offline  
Oct 13th, 2004, 06:09 AM
  #4  
Iza
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I agree with Shillmac that Costa Rica is the place you are describing in your post.

Given your interest in birding, I would recommend that you visit Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve instead of Arenal for 2-3 days and then head down to the Pacific coast. There are several options there: Manuel Antonio would be a great place for you but the hotels are not directly on the beach. The beaches in town and the national park are beautiful, however. Check out Villas Nicholas in Manuel Antonio. Montezuma is a good suggestion as well, although I am not sure if there is any snorkeling nearby. People recommend El Sano Banano a lot. Another spot that may be a good place for you would be Samara. It is a nice town with lots of local flavor and a beautiful beach that is great for swimming. The next beach south of Samara (just a few minute drive) is Playa Carillo which is stunning and mostly deserted. Villas Kalimba is brand new and looks like a great place to stay in Samara.

Don't bother with a travel agent, do your own arrangements (fax/e-mail or call the hotels you are interested in, rent a car and enjoy the freedom that comes with it). We visited Costa Rica 3 times and found that making our own plans was really the best.
Iza is offline  
Oct 13th, 2004, 07:15 AM
  #5  
 
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"should we get a travel agent in order to get good package deals?" A subject with a million different opinions.
No, you will not get a better deal. I choose to use an agent to cut down on my time and overall planning frustration.
Pat Hewitt will ask you many questions to be certain he knows what you are looking for and what you expect. He was absolutely wonderful to work with. Based in New Orleans and Costa Rice - here is his website. http://www.truecostarica.com
On this trip, we even had our first few days tours scheduled. The first morning we were up bright and early, off to the Pacuare to white water raft. 2nd day off to Tortuguero for a 3 day/2 night trip. 5th morning flying off to Montezuma. 9th day flying back to SJ, pick up vehicle, drive to La Paz. Using Pat, just made everything click perfectly, he tweaked our itinerary to make it work best and made great suggestions based on our desires.

dfarmer is offline  
Oct 13th, 2004, 09:02 AM
  #6  
 
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Part of the fun for us is doing the planning--probably for Iza as well. And having the option to tweak our own plans as we go, allowing a little more flexibility.

Like the issue of "to drive or not to drive", it's whatever works best for the individual and their likes and dislikes, etc. As in everything, there are advantages either way.

Also for birding, you might also consider the Rio Savegre area around the town of San Gerardo de Dota--absolutely beautiful. Trogan Lodge and Savegre Mountain Lodge both good choices for accomodations.
shillmac is offline  
Oct 13th, 2004, 10:32 PM
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D, you are right on about Pat. I have stayed in about 36 different hotels/lodges/etc. as well as 3 homestays and many are little, out of the way places that we probably would have missed had it not been for people like Pat. Places where we can really get to know the country and the people.

I make my own plans and arrangements frequently but it is also nice to have someone else just make it happen. I also travel with no plans at times. It is nice to be able to bounce ideas off of someone who really knows the country once in awhile.

I guess I have been traveling down there long enough to not feel like I have to prove anything by being able to say I did it myself. Been there, done that.....still learning a lot from the pros that I could never learn on these boards and would probably miss on my own or at the very least not have found for a long time. My husband stumbled on a place this summer that had been open for 2 years but had never had a guest! He did have help finding out about the place though from someone down there.

As far as the main message, San Gerardo de Dota is a good place for the Quetzal and a few other good birds but it is not the best birding in CR not to mention that it can be downright cold up there. I would recommend the Osa Peninsula or head over to the Caribbean slope. Even Dominical might fit. It is laid back, has great birds, the Marine Reserve is just down the road if you have a car. You can snorkel and possibly do some whale watching. There are some decent places without being pretentious.

All tour agents can cut you deals if they want. For most it is their living and they have spent a lot of time learning their job so I don't mind them making commissions. As far as whether to use one or not, it is all a matter of your own personal comfort level. You probably won't save money.

Jessie_ is offline  
Oct 17th, 2004, 05:54 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
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I vote for Costa, we are going in a few weeks. We are going river rafting with riostropicales.com. We are also going to the cloud forest in Montre Verde, the beaches in Manuel Antonio (www.villasnicolas.com)there is a hammock, you are nestled in the rainforest and you overlook the ocean...all this for under 100 p/nt -- sicomono.com (go here to see activities in the area) i would reccomend the mangrove tour and the sunset cruise. sicomono.com is next door and you can eat there and enjoy free movies in their state of the art theater each night. it is rugged and beautiful. Arenal also has a wonderful hot springs www.tabaconsprings.com --i think this is right. Have fun!
swigswig is offline  
Oct 17th, 2004, 05:55 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
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I have heard that Cano Negro reserve (can go from Arenal) is a great place for birding.
swigswig is offline  
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