Must do's in Costa Rica

Old Oct 25th, 2002, 12:46 PM
  #1  
Zach
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Must do's in Costa Rica

My wife and are going to Costa Rica for our first anniversary in late January/early February. We are staying two nights in San Jose (Grano de Oro), three nights at Tabacon Resort and Spa, and four nights in Tamarindo (Jardin del Eden). With this itinerary in mind, what should we definitly do or not do? We enjoy snorkeling, but I've heard the snorkeling isn't great. We would also like to go rafting (class III-IV) if possible. Not too in to the club scene. What activities do I definitly need to book in advance considering the time of year? Thanks for everyone's help!
 
Old Oct 25th, 2002, 01:35 PM
  #2  
ltien
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I think water rafting down the Pacuare River is a "must do". Seeing the volcanic eruptions at Arenal is a "must do" if you're into that sort of thing. If you to like to fish, then fishing off Costa Rica's Pacific Coast is a "must do".
 
Old Oct 25th, 2002, 01:39 PM
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Iza
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Zach, sounds like a great trip, although I myself did not really care that much for Jardin del Eden (stayed there for 3 nights in 2000).
From San Jose, a day trip including Volcan Poas and a coffee plantation may be a fun thing to do, although if you are planning on white water rafting, that will probably be best done from San Jose and will take you a full day.
In Arenal area we really didn't do much more than visit the hot springs, drive up to Lake Arenal and do some hiking near our hotel (the weather was cloudy and rainy the whole time we were there so we really did not have an opportunity to do much more than that).
 
Old Oct 25th, 2002, 01:40 PM
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Iza
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Zach, here is the second part of my response, apparently it was too long to post in one piece:
In Tamarindo, take a ride to Playa Conchal (you can get a taxi to take you if you don't have a car). It is a beautiful beach with white sand and crushed shells. We also took a tour to the Rincon de la Vieja area which was fun (included a canopy tour and a hot volcanic mud treatment at a natural spa). If you ride horses, take a horse ride along the Tamarindo beach at sunset - beautiful. Make sure to walk to the beach every evening to enjoy sunset viewing: Tamarindo has the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. We also loved walking along the beach at nigh with a flashlight; the stars are incredible and our daughter enjoyed chasing hermit crabs.
 
Old Oct 26th, 2002, 08:39 AM
  #5  
Tess
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Zach,

Last November I made my first trip to CR, which included a night's stay in Tamarindo. If you're a serious nature person, I'd suggest an amazing "Animal Planet" or "Nat'l Geographic" moment by witnessing the nesting of Leatherback Turtles. I'm pretty sure the season is ongoing thru when you'll be there. Since I was with a guided tour, the particulars were already arranged; the "turtle station" is along Playa Grande beach. We did have to hang out for several hours before a turtle came up on the beach to lay her eggs (nature doesn't always provide an easy timetable). I really enjoyed seeing it.

Iza --- I have to admit that I get a kick out of watching & chasing the tiny little crabs running on the beach. Must be the child in me ...
 
Old Oct 26th, 2002, 09:30 AM
  #6  
Mike
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Zach,

Cut San Jose out of the trip...You'll just waste valuable time in a polluted dump...Grano de Oro is charming, but what are your plans during the daylight hours? Sorry but smart travelers with only 9 days avoid San Jose like the plague...

Have fun at Tabacon, its more like Disney Land than Costa Rica. You'll definately be able to see lots of American Tourists there! It's a great place to visit and have a few drinks...but it's tacky. Montana de Fuego Inn is a much cooler place to stay in La Fortuna.

Never been to Tamarindo.

Sorry to be critical of your choices, but your planning lacks depth...You'll have a great time no doubt. But Costa Rica is such a magnificant place, and its a shame to waste so much time in San Jose and Tabacon resort. Have you read the Fodors Costa Rica Book? Have you gone online and seen the amazing hotels and secluded beaches the country has?...Or did you pay a travel agent to put together the McPackage value deal #3? Sounds like you did...

My suggestion..if it's not too late: Rent a Pathfinder, buy the Fodors Book, and hit the road. Check out the places that are a little off the beaten path; places that offer an amazing hotel to sleep in at the end of your drive. Discover Costa Rica with your wife. Just the two of you...a little adventure...away from the pollution of San Jose and and the tourists at Jaco and Tabacon. If you follow this advice you'll truly understand what I mean when I call Costa Rica Magnificant...
 
Old Oct 26th, 2002, 11:19 AM
  #7  
Jean
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We are going to CR in February and also spending two nights at Grano de Oro. Our plane doesn't arrive until 9pm, and we'll leave early am, so that only leaves one day for San Jose. I've not heard and read great things about San Jose either, but I'm also guessing it will be a different city experience than any city here in the states.

As for Tabacon, there is lot more to do in the area than the hot springs. The hot springs were interesting for a few hours, but the views from our window of the almost constantly 'belching' volcano were awesome. There's great hiking in the park by the volcano. And though we didn't wander any further, the La Paz waterfall sounds awesome too.

We went to Manual Antonio rather than Tamarindo because we were there in the dry season, and the dry forest didn't sound as appealing as the green and verdant rain forest around Manual Antonio.

By the way, Iza, what was it that you didn't like about Jardin de Eden in Tamarindo?
 
Old Oct 26th, 2002, 11:45 AM
  #8  
Earl
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If you are staying at the Grano de Oro, which is quite nice, make it the nights you arrive and leave. I agree with the above and skip San Jose. The hotel will keep your bags so you can travel light.
Skip the rental car, the roads are bad and the domestic flights will get you anywhere in 45 min.
Talbacon is beautiful but like an American spa with no Tico culture. The volcano is seldom seen because of cloudcover. Tamarindo is great for surfing and golf but the leatherbacks are the only redeaming factor. The best part of the country is the Golfo Dulce and the Osa. Beautiful beaches, the last large costal tropical rainforest in the Americasand snorkeling. The Piquare River is a great day trip from San Jose , use Rio Tropicales or CR Expeditions.
Have fun
 
Old Oct 27th, 2002, 09:10 AM
  #9  
Wendy
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You must do a anopy tour. This was definitely a highlight for us. We did the 'Original Canopy Tour' in Monteverde. We basically glided on a zip line from tree to tree through the forest, climbed through a fig tree and repelled.
 
Old Oct 27th, 2002, 09:42 AM
  #10  
David N Cook
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Don't let all the above naysayers worry you, since this is your first time in CR, you have picked the right places to go. Your choices of hotel are "upper end" for CR so if thats what you want, great! In SJ, don't miss the downtown central market tho you might want to save it for last since it's a great place to buy gifts to take home. In the Arenal/LaFortuna area, take a nitetime trip up close to the volcano, and don't miss Fortuna Falls. Don't be afraid to drive, it's not bad at all, just realize that the roads are in a Third World condition. Take soda breaks and don't try to drive at nite. For some extra fun, take the Tempisque or Puntarenas ferryboats to/from Tamarindo. And if you really want to get into Tico life, take the bus to your major destinations. If you don't have too much luggage it's fun and you can learn a lot about the people. Pick up a guidebook (Lonely Planet, etc)before you go. Don't forget to relax and enjoy the local beer (Imperial or Heiniken) and a shot of Guaro (sugar cane liquor)! Good luck, you'll have fun!
 
Old Oct 27th, 2002, 11:30 AM
  #11  
Cristian
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Zach: I agree with some of the above replies in that you might want to have more freedom of movement while you are down there. There are some programs called fly and drive which give you precisely that. I recommend a tour operator called Costa Rica Ecoadventures for that. There email is [email protected] If you like snorkeling or scuba diving, playas del coco is an incredible place to do both. Good luck!!
 
Old Oct 27th, 2002, 04:55 PM
  #12  
Iza
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Jean, here are the things that turned me off to Jardin del Eden: very unpleasant and indifferent service in the restaurant (but the receptionist was helpful), location far from the beach (even if you walk the private path, you'll still need to go across the main street in Tamarindo and you end up on the part of the beach that really did not appeal to me (busy, surfers, not as pretty as the opposite end), pool area has no view and feels very confined and hot, the room had a tiny bathroom and lumpy pillows, and the TV did not work and when we reported it to the reception, they did not even bother to send anyone to check it out (we stayed there for 3 nights).
I have to admit that I am a bit jaded in my review having also stayed at Capitan Suizo in Tamarindo which was absolutely great.
 
Old Oct 27th, 2002, 05:03 PM
  #13  
Iza
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Zach, I agree with David Cook, please do not take Mike's response too seriously. I think that your itinerary is fine for a first trip to CR.
Mike is right that San Jose is not the best place to stay but if you are planning to do whitewater rafting from there, you'll be gone all day anyway. And I have heard really good things about Grano de Oro.
As to Tabacon, when we were there in August of 2001, we were definitely in the minority as Americans. Most other people at the hot springs were Costa Ricans. At the hotel where we stayed (Arenal Paraiso) most patrons were Costa Ricans. Tabacon Hot Springs is a bit touristy but still worth seeing if it is your first time there.
And I love Tamarindo and am sure you will have a great time there.
So don't worry about Mike putting you down like that.

 
Old Oct 28th, 2002, 05:27 AM
  #14  
Jean
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Thanks, Iza, for your comments on Jarden del Eden. I had made reservations there for our first trip to CR last spring, but cancelledl them when we decided on Manual Antonio rather than Tamarindo. Of course, that was before I'd even heard of Capitan Suizo, which certainly sounds like the place to stay.
 
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