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We really liked Nicaragua, so will we like Costa Rica? Or, maybe Honduras?

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Nov 2nd, 2009, 07:11 AM
  #1
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We really liked Nicaragua, so will we like Costa Rica? Or, maybe Honduras?

Last January we spent 2 weeks in Nicaragua and really enjoyed it. We're more adventuresome independent travelers than many who post here and like places that are not just like home as far as amenities (in fact, that is one of the main reasons we travel). I can just get by in Spanish, and we don't need English speakers to hold our hands. We frequently prefer to get off the beaten path and don't necessarily do all the things that the typical tourist does. We like to hike, kayak, fly fish (my husband), visit intriguing historic locales, observe nature, interact with the local culture/people and are more than happy in places that some would consider too rustic or too foreign or too scary (but not super dangerous). We do not go on vacation just to sit and relax in nice surroundings or lie on the beach. About a half a day ocasionally of that is okay, but, for the most part, we prefer to be active. We are also not really into wanting to do a lot of adventure tourism like zip-lining, surfing, and heavy duty whitewater rafting.

I think that many might consider Nicaragua a bit too third world, but that aded to the interest for us. While we liked everything we did in Nicaragua, our favorites there were las isletas off of Granada where we stayed on a private island, Ometepe, and visiting a cloud forest park. Granada was fine, but we found it to be a bit overly tourist oriented. Leon was an interesting one day trip for us, but I don't know if we'd have spent much more time there. Laguna de Apoyo was our least favorite primarily because we did not find a lot to do there, and we are not ones to just sit on a beach. We did not visit San Juan del Sur because it sounded too built up for us and too Americanized. (I should also mention that one of our favorite experiences elsewhere was at a totally in the boonies, 60 miles upstream from the nearest town, jungle lodge in the Amazon in Peru. Fabulous excursions and environment but very primitive in many ways--no electircity and no hot water.)

I hear mixed things about Costa Rica. Obviously, many people rave about it, and many people have heard about it. On the other hand, I also hear that it is quite Americanized, in many places on the coast is being built up with luxury private homes, and over run with tourists and quite pricey because it is a tourist mecca. I've read that Nicaragua is what Costa Rica used to be like say 30 years ago before it was overrun with tourists. I've only done a bit of research, but I think the places in Costa Rica we'd be most interested in visiting, considering the limitations of a two week trip, would be the area northwest of San Jose, the Osa Peninsula, and the Caribbean area.

So, what are your thoughts? And, for those who are moderate travelers, is the cost comparable to traveling in the US? Or, is it less? How does it compare to Nicaragua?

One final thought. We are also looking at Honduras becaue it sounds as though there are many of the types of things we'd enjoy there. Does anyone have any comments about Honduras?

Thanks.
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Nov 2nd, 2009, 07:40 AM
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People come to Costa Rica and see McDonald's, condos and shopping malls and say, "It's so Americanized." I don't agree. First of all, there is no reason you have to have contact with any of those things during a trip here; the average Costa Rican does not. Second, and most important, by no stretch of the imagination is Costa Rica the United States. (I mean that in a good way.) It is very foreign and it has very much its own way of doing things. I think that's what most of the people who post to this forum will tell you they like about the place.

As much as I like Nicaragua and Honduras, Costa Rica just works better. It has a longer history of welcoming tourists. Its product is more polished. Costa Rica does fall behind the other two in the quality of its roads though. That one baffles me how a country that is so advanced in so many ways hasn't learned to construct decent roads.

Costa Rica is more expensive than Nicaragua or Honduras. You're right on that count. If you stay in big resorts, Costa Rica will be on par with costs in the U.S., but it doesn't sound like that's your style of travel.
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Nov 2nd, 2009, 09:23 AM
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I think you're selling the people on the board short - plenty of independent adventurous travelers here. CR still has a lot of undeveloped areas. Two of our favorites have been the Osa Peninsula and Tortuguero, although there are plenty of others.
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Nov 2nd, 2009, 10:18 AM
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Thanks to both of you!

Jeff--So basically you are saying that Costa Rica has its tourism act together much better than the two other countries? When we were in Nicaragua we saw some of the brochures for the Pacific area housing developments near San Juan del Sur and understood that this was a small example of what is very common in Costa Rica. And, that is not what we are looking for. So, I am glad to hear that those who choose selectively can find what they are looking for. Your comment about the roads also tells me that perhaps Costa Rica (if we do this trip) like Nicaragua will be a place where we hire a driver when we need one rather than doing our typical rental car routine. If we like small, locally-owned places for lodging, is Costa Rica twice as much as Nicaragua or in what percentage range? How do meals compare? We don't eat or stay high end.

Volcanogirl--Sorry to offend. Perhaps I have spent too much time over on the Europe forum, but I have noticed a tendency that many people who use this site are looking for higher end and more luxury and a little less edginess than we typically look for. Thanks for the tips on undeveloped places; that is definitely what we are looking for.
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Nov 2nd, 2009, 10:39 AM
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Yes, Costa Rica looks in general more like the United States than does Nicaragua or a place like Jamaica. That's because its income levels are more like the United States.

Paris and Rome are much more like the United States than is Costa Rica. You can drive through the suburbs of Madrid and find it indistinguishable from metropolitan areas in North America.

But I can guarantee you that, outside of a few areas (Jaco, Guanacaste, Manuel Antonio, La Fortuna), you won't find yourself thinking you're in the United States.
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Nov 2nd, 2009, 10:44 AM
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As far as cost is concerned, you can pay as little or as much as you want in Costa Rica. In Drake Bay on the Osa peninsula, for instance, you can spend $20/person or you can spend $500 a person.

Costa Rica has its act together better than its neighbors in general, not just in terms of tourism. They scrapped their army over a half century ago, and have had that time to build a stable democracy and devote resources that pay for guns in other countries towards books.

You can rent a car and drive yourself in Costa Rica--just drive defensively and you're fine. Saves a lot of money.
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Nov 2nd, 2009, 11:54 AM
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From your description of what you like in Peru

You might enjoy San Blas area in Panama

www.enjoypanama.com/kuna_yala.htm · beautiful quite exotic

Also many areas in Honduras would suit I like Utila a lot

www.zancudo.com in CR Drakes Bay little more touristed...

Have fun,
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Nov 2nd, 2009, 12:34 PM
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j, no offense taken at all. I totally understand what you're saying.
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Nov 2nd, 2009, 12:40 PM
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Too many choices, and as usual I suspect our final decision may be driven by air fare rates since there seems to be a huge disparity in prices between locales and dates.
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Nov 2nd, 2009, 02:15 PM
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Honduras is really wonderful - lots of photos with travelogue/blog links below if you're interested. I haven't been to Costa Rica and probably won't choose to head that way - I'm more interested in cultural history and diversity than in nature, though I've found more than enough of that in Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras as well (plus I'm a diver/snorkeler - part of Honduras' appeal). Happy trails!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
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Nov 3rd, 2009, 02:12 PM
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Stacey--

Nothing I like more than photos to get an idea of a place. Thanks for posting the collection.
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Nov 3rd, 2009, 03:02 PM
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De nada - all I ask is a travelogue (and I know you're a good writer of those). ;-)
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Nov 3rd, 2009, 05:04 PM
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http://www.bosquedelcabo.om/home/index.html shows Bosque del Cabo, a neat nature lodge on the Osa Peninsula. It gives you a good idea of some of the wildlife you would see in CR. This is one of the higher end places, but you can find accommodations in all styles and prices ranges.
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Nov 3rd, 2009, 05:05 PM
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I think the link got corrupted when I posted it. Try www.bosquedelcabo.com to see the video.
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Nov 12th, 2009, 11:43 PM
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For a nature and cultural option look into Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve on the east coast of Honduras and Nicaragua. Haven't been there yet, possibly this March, but it sounds very interesting. Check out www.larutamoskitia.com also the World Heritage site for world biosphere reserves to find some awesome off the path places.
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Nov 13th, 2009, 04:00 AM
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Costa Rica: I'd suggest La Carolina, north and west of San Jose near Bijagua. It's remote, no electricity, has a really cool "hottub" built on a river and heated with a wood fire and copper coils. Amazing! We enjoyed horseback, bird watching, and hiking Volcan Tenori and the beautiful blue Rio Celeste. No English spoken.

Certainly areas of the Osa Peninsula, recommend Cabo Matapalo.

Southern Caribbean--explore the Bri Bri culture inland. Beautiful coastal area, less infrastructure, quite "funky".

2 nights on the Rio Pacuare, white water rafting. The lodge is remote, can only be reached by rafters, no electricity, and you have a day in between to explore this remote area where the Cabecar indigenous people live. Rios Tropicales recommended outfitter.

Rara Avis: north and east of San Jose. A tractor takes you deep into Braulio Carillo National Park where you can be in a very primitive situation with nature for a couple of days. Critters guaranteed!
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Nov 13th, 2009, 04:00 AM
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And certainly, Tortuguero.
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Nov 13th, 2009, 10:49 AM
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I visited Costa Rica before going to Nicaragua, and although I enjoyed my stay in Costa Rica, I enjoyed Nicaragua much more. I like to be able to feel/see culture that is unique to a locale, and felt this more in Nicaragua. Nicaragua is not quite as modernised and convenient as CR, and I found this to be part of the charm.
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Nov 14th, 2009, 07:41 AM
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Thanks all! After all this we've decided on the Yucatan this time around rather than Central America, primarily because my husband decided it was time for a low key vacation with plenty of time for him to fly fish rather than run around trying to see eveything. But, I am tucking all this info away for another trip in the future.
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