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Where To Go For Son's Graduation Trip...Belize or Costa Rica?

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Mar 6th, 2012, 09:03 AM
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Where To Go For Son's Graduation Trip...Belize or Costa Rica?

My son will be graduating from college this summer and will hopefully have his CPA by then as well. I want to plan a week to ten day trip, not sure which month is best, to either Belize or Costa Rica. We both love the ocean, would like to take a guided hike in the jungle, and would love to go zip lining. Having never ventured past Mexico I am seeking the sage advice of this who have traveled into Central America. I know virtually nothing about the area. In Costa Rica, Pacific side or Caribbean side? What towns would have interesting sights and things to do?
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Mar 6th, 2012, 09:26 AM
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Both of them have a lot to do and a lot of natural beauty. If you like snorkeling or diving and ruins, I'd lean towards Belize. If you love amazing wildlife, I'd lean towards Costa Rica.

A combo of Arenal and Manuel Antonio in CR would be good or San Ignacio and Ambergris in Belize. Check those out and see what you think.
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Mar 6th, 2012, 09:55 AM
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I'm glad you responded, volcanogirl, as I have read many of your posts. We have snorkeled in Hawaii quite a bit but I LOVE ruins...I'm not sure my son would have the same interest. I think for the wildlife and forests I gravitate towards Costa Rica but I want some beach/down time too. Is is necessary to rent a car if you remain in only one or two locations? In Manuel Antonio, is most of the lodging on the hillside? We're not going for luxurious but would like something clean and comfortable. Do they have places that have small kitchenettes for an easy morning meal? What about local food and restaurants?
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Mar 6th, 2012, 10:20 AM
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We did the Arenal and Manuel Antonio combo for one of our trips, and it was a great way to get jungle, volcano, beach, wildlife, and adventure activities. We never rent a car; we use private drivers to get between cities and taxis once we get there. A lot of people do like to have a car, but if you don't want to drive, it's completely doable. For ziplining, we loved Sky Trek in the Arenal area; you can also hike at the waterfall, Hanging Bridges, and volcano, can do a Penas Blancas river float, Cano Negro tour, or white water raft, and there are nice natural hot springs like Eco Termales and Tabacon that you can visit. Manuel Antonio has a very pretty beach inside the national park and lots of fairly tame wildlife, lots of hotel and restaurant choices in both areas. We stayed at a place called Mango Moon it was on the hill and within walking distance to several restaurants. If we went back, I'd stay at Tulemar Bungalows because I like that it has its own beach, and they have the kitchens you were asking about.

In Arenal, we like Don Rufino, Soda la Parada, and La Choza de Laurel. In Manuel Antonio, we like Ronny's Place, Cafe Milagro, Cafe Agua Azul, Salsipuedes, and Barba Roja. Don Rufino and Ronny's are our favorites. A lot of the restaurants in Manuel Antonio have nice sunset views.
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Mar 6th, 2012, 10:26 AM
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Don't assume from the response that there is no wildlife spotting in Belize. In fact a friend was lucky enough to see a jaguar early one morning in the Cockscomb Sanctuary.

Belize is really a better combo of ruins, wildlife and snorkeling if you chose wisely.
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Mar 6th, 2012, 10:56 AM
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Spotting big cats in either country is extremely rare though, even for the guides.
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Mar 6th, 2012, 11:10 AM
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vg - thank you for all of the great recommendations. I will start my research and for me the planning is half the fun! I wasn't sure where to begin with finding out about zip lining, for example. My son and I both love to cook and we eat everything so I'm looking forward to exploring the cuisine.
mlgb-I wouldn't assume anything being totally new to Central America. A jaguar? Wow how cool! Can you enlighten me more about Belize? Any recommendations are more than welcome.

OK, now the "bug" question. I am definitely not bug phobic, but the mosquitoes do seem to love me. Do you need to have any sort of vaccination before heading to Central America? Carry bug repellant everywhere you go? What about the beach areas, which I guess can often times be near the forests as well.
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Mar 6th, 2012, 12:10 PM
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Tough choice. I've never been to either but Belize more 'calls my name' personally speaking. Can't say why I've just never been drawn to Costa Rica.
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Mar 6th, 2012, 12:15 PM
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No vaccinations are required; we always pack bug spray though and use it where needed. The only places the mosquitoes have been really bad for us have been the San Ignacio area of Belize in the jungle and the Tortuguero area of CR - both after substantial amounts of rain. Usually if you wear repellent, you'll be fine.
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Mar 6th, 2012, 12:28 PM
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Belize calls me back over and over and I don't have much interest in CR, frankly. Not that your son would have the same opinions, though. My travel priorities are fascinating contemporary cultures, Maya sites, and easy access to great snorkeling and diving (nods to Belize). I also love caving (Belize) and jungly places/wildlife (both, edge to CR).

Have a great trip, whatever you decide, and congratulations to your son!
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Mar 6th, 2012, 12:52 PM
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We're just the opposite - several trips to CR, and we'll keep going back and exploring new areas. The people there are so warm and amazing, the volcano, the waterfalls, monkeys galore, the rafting and ziplines. I do think the food is more sophisticated in Belize though; in general the food in Costa Rica tends to be a lot more simple. The beaches in Belize are beautiful, but a lot of them have sea grass, so if you're leaning that way, check that out before you go. Strong points for each place.
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Mar 6th, 2012, 12:54 PM
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suze-Aren't you planning a trip right now too? I guess I have always heard that CR was so beautiful and have not heard as much about Belize. I have never been on the Caribbean side.

Aggghhh! Back to square one!

hopefulist-I, like you, enjoy cultures, though I am not a diver I do enjoy the water. I have to investigate "caving". When I mentioned zip lining, my son went to bungy jumping. I would zip for all that you get to experience along the way, not bungy as it is over too fast. Thank you for the congrats, I will relay as he has worked hard!
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Mar 6th, 2012, 01:04 PM
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Both places offer caving if that interests you - ATM and Barton Creek are popular in Belize, and the Venado Caves near Arenal in Costa Rica. Your son is a lucky guy to get to take such a great trip either way you go!
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Mar 6th, 2012, 01:05 PM
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What IS caving???
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Mar 6th, 2012, 01:11 PM
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It's exploring caves - some you can walk through, some involve a lot of climbing, some you can canoe through, etc.
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Mar 6th, 2012, 01:29 PM
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Thanks vg, I wasn't quite sure what it involved. I just read some info on ATM in Belize, which sounds incredible and I guess it is a hiking, swimming cave experience with ruins as well. Canoeing would be fun. I also noted that a stay in the jungle is worthwhile for the experience. Oh boy this is fun already!
Thank you all so much for giving me some place to start this trip planning. I have now been officially "bitten" by the travel bug!
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Mar 6th, 2012, 03:23 PM
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ATM cave:
http://pacztours.net/actun-tunichil-muknal/
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Mar 6th, 2012, 04:53 PM
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Tough call: I have been to Costa Rica 3 times and long every year to go to Belize. I agree that Belize is your better bet if you want water sports. It is just too rough off Costa Rica for snorkelling; I've tried both Caribbean and Pacific coasts.

Costa Rica is Spanish speaking, which can make it fun if you want to give a second language a try, but enough English is spoken almost everywhere that you can get by easily without. I agree with the recommendation for a private driver in CR. The roads are very windy, traffic jams lasting for miles and miles are commonplace, and the driving habits of the locals are scary. A driver will not be too costly and will no doubt add some local commentary and take you to places you might not otherwise see. It is a pretty safe country and has a good medical system should you be unfortunate enough to need it. I don't find San Jose a particularly interesting city, but the country is small enough it can make a good base to go just about anywhere. I don't recall insects being a problem.
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Mar 6th, 2012, 05:29 PM
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Yep, we did the Barton Creek trip and canoed through a cave - very pretty, and there were some artifacts inside which was neat. If you stay in the San Ignacio area, you can go over to Guatemala to see the Tikal ruins via Pacz tours. For Costa Rica, I'd recommend Desafio, Sunset Tours, and Rios Tropicales - check out their websites to see all the tours. And Sky Trek that I mentioned above for ziplining.
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Mar 7th, 2012, 03:10 AM
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Belize has lots of adventure Mayan ruins whiter beaches
For adventure short stay cavesbranch.com robersgrove.com victoria-house.com my favs. PLENTY of wildlife

CR is fine browner beaches generally hot springs volcano tabacon.com fondavela.com hotelvillacalets.com my favs.

Both are great you cannot gowrong but Belize for ruinsbeach.
CR for volcano hot springs.

Good luck pm if needed.
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