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Costa Rica

My husband, myself and 14 yr. old grandson are planning a trip to Costa Rica in Oct. for 7 days. We had some friends that went and stayed by Manuel Antonio National Park and loved it. We like the idea of being by a National Park for the wildlife and the beach for the relaxation. Has anyone been to that National Park before and what other areas of Costa Rica are a must see? We are not sure of any other place to see and don't want to spend allot of time driving. Also any suggestions on hotel, air-b-inb? This is the beginning plans for our trip and are open to any suggestions.
Thanks

Posted by
3551 posts

Why not take a guided tour from a co like Gate one or Caravan?
They are reasonable and take the guess work and safety out of alot of short self directed trips.

Posted by
2134 posts

Costa Rica is a really easy place to travel. They have an amazing tourist infrastructure set up. I don't think you need a tour there. Caravan does big 48 person bus tours there. They're very popular and they fill up but, despite all the "incredible price" hoopla, I don't think they're that great a deal. (And I have traveled with Caravan - to Nova Scotia).

For example, for the three of you to travel, you'd be looking at about $4500 for their tour. ($1200 per person in a triple plus about $300 per person in taxes and fees). That does include everything - all food and activities and transfers. Tipping the guide will be extra.

By comparison, I am going to Costa Rica later this month. We are spending 7 nights there. There are tons of awesome areas to cover but I am going with someone who has never been to Costa Rica before and so I have chosen La Fortuna/Arenal and Manuel Antonio. La Fortuna has tons of great activities nearby and Manuel Antonio has beaches and wildlife. Together they make a nice basic intro to Costa Rica.

Our cost for 7 nights of hotels is $700. Our cost for private transfers around the country is $729. ( Airport to La Fortuna, La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio, Manuel Antonio to airport plus one day of dedicated driver to take us to an animal sanctuary. These are each drives of about 4 hours. We are spending $280 on activities in La Fortuna (wildlife rescue, Cano Negro river boat ride day trip, tour of local chocolate farm). We are spending $120 on activities in Manuel Antonio (guided National Park tour).

So that's about $1820. For a private tour. Your price could go up a bit if you add more activities but not by a ton. We have breakfast included all days and lunch on two. I'm budgeting about $40 per day for other food - we don't eat in fancy places.

There are also consolidators like AnywhereCostaRica that will let you cobble a package together of your own liking. They're reputable and their website is easy to use.

Note for Costa Rica - driving times are deceiving. Roads are slow. A four hour drive is often only about 100 or 120 miles.

Posted by
3336 posts

Agree with the previous poster...Costa Rica has great tourist infrastructure and is easily done on your own.
Manuel Antonio is a FANTASTIC area...the forest and coastline are stunning.
I highly recommend hotel Si Como No - the hotel cascades down a hillside dotted by pools and small villas. You really feel like you're in Costa Rica!
Eat at El Avion right next door...it's open air, overlooking the ocean. Pretty spectacular!
Just know that, although beautiful, this area is well-discovered with plenty of tourists and tourist stuff...i personally like it there but a friend of mine I was traveling with thought it was too built up.
You can walk through the national park by crossing a small river and then following footpaths through the forest.
There are also kakak tours through the mangrove estuaries and canopy tours through the rainforest up in the mountains...really fun!

Posted by
111 posts

In 2014 we stayed at an eco lodge in Torteguero NP and loved it! Torteguero is on the Caribbean coast and is an area made up of canals, rivers, lagoons, coast and rain forest. It is only accessible by boat or you can fly into the small village of Torteguero. Many of the lodges have packages that include transportation from San Jose. We stayed at Pachira Lodge which was across the river from the village and right in the rain forest. The wildlife both around the lodge and in the national park was abundant and amazing. From the front porch of our little cottage we saw monkeys, parrots, toucans, coati, snakes, sloths and many many different types of birds. We were woken up in the mornings by the howler monkeys right outside and on the roof of our cottage. The lodges offer boat tours through the canals and rivers, and hiking in the jungle. Meals were included in our stay. This is one of my most favorite places that I've ever experienced!

This is a good website with lots of information about Torteguero NP.

http://www.tortugueroinfo.com/usa/tortuguero_costarica.htm

Posted by
996 posts

I second the above poster who suggested Arenal/La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio. Both areas are breathtaking, and you will see a sample of some of the best of the best of what Costa Rica has to offer tourists.

We stayed at the Hotel Tabulia Tree when we were down near Manuel Antonio. It's very relaxing and close to the park. There is no shortage of hotels there, though, so it depends on what you want in a place to stay.

I also loved the restaurant mentioned by another poster, El Avion. The story behind it is great, and we had world class service there. Come to think of it, I can't think of any place we ate in Costa Rica where we did not receive amazing service.

Yes, I am already planning a future trip to return there. ;-)

Posted by
1860 posts

Can anyone comment on rental car/driving in Costa Rica? Road conditions, etc. I’ve long wondered about doing our our driving trip including Arenal and Manuel Antonio etc. Thanks.

Posted by
2134 posts

The Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum for Costa Rica has tons of reviews by people who drove. Includes reviews of specific rental companies and just general reviews of their self-drive vacations. Having read a ton of them, the most common refrain is don't drive at night there. I haven't driven there.

Posted by
327 posts

We flew into Liberia and rented with Budget. We drove to La Fortuna for three nights before driving to Tamarindo where we returned the car. We did the drive using just paper maps, but a GPS would be easier as roads aren't marked clearly. Going around Lake Arenal, the road does get windy and there are some one lane bridges. Traffic sometimes moves slowly, so patience is important. We stayed at Hotel Lomas de Volcan at La Fortuna.

Posted by
11 posts

These posts are very helpful and thanks Valerie for breaking down some of the costs associated with excursions and hotels as we are setting our budget for this trip. Now we may want to stay a few days at Manuel Antonio National Park and a few days at another location just not sure where that will be yet. Has anyone stayed at an air-bnb in Costa Rica?

Posted by
996 posts

Can anyone comment on rental car/driving in Costa Rica? Road conditions, etc. I’ve long wondered about doing our our driving trip including Arenal and Manuel Antonio etc. Thanks.

We relied on a driver when we were in Costa Rica. If you plan to use your phone's directions, be advised that there are remote areas where cell phone service doesn't perfectly reach.

As far as the roads themselves, getting from one large tourist area to another is pretty straightforward. Some roads are paved highways like what you'd see in the US. Some roads are bumpy and dirty. We were told that the road to Monteverde has drastically improved from what it once was, but I don't think I would enjoy driving it. Then again, I don't like driving, so YMMV.

If you're planning to rely on a credit card's rental car insurance to cover you in Costa Rica, check your insurance before renting a car in Costa Rica. I seem to recall that at least one of my credit cards does NOT cover rentals there (insurance wise), although it is very generous elsewhere in the world.

Posted by
1770 posts

I have not been to Costa Rica. However, friends who went and rented a car had everything stolen out of the trunk while they were sightseeing. So, if you rent a car, be sure to insure everything to the hilt.

Posted by
11 posts

thanks Janet, I appreciate you sharing about your friend and renting a car.

Posted by
1860 posts

Thanks for the information and driving experiences. Costa Rica has always appealed, and the info here is appreciated.

Posted by
11 posts

We would like to add another place to stay while in Costa Rica after we visited Manuel Antonio and someone suggested Avita as it is along the route back to the airport. Has anyone stayed there? and what would be a draw to choosing this place as our second place to stay in Costa Rica? We will be doing some rafting and zip lining already. Thanks

Posted by
11450 posts

October is rainy season , side roads will be muddy .

Drivers in Costa Rica are crazy . Our daughter moved there in September and told us so , also adding do not drive at night . Many roads are unlit and windy and local drivers don't respect lines (!IF THERE ARE ANY )

We just returned from a visit and we agree with her . Roads this time of year are dry but many potholes and deep Rita on side roads .

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks Pat,

I don't think we will be driving due to these comments. Where did you go while in Costa Rica? and did you stay in a Hotel or Air-bnb?

Posted by
11 posts

I understand that Oct. is the rainy season, has anyone gone during that time? Does it rain constantly?

Posted by
11450 posts

Hi,, just saw your reply. We stayed in Flamingo Beach for a week and 5 days in Tamarindo.. both times in hotels. We are not really into the Airbnb thing ourselves. In Flamingo we stayed at the Flamingo Beach resort and it was great... in Tamarindo we stayed at the Diria and loved it.. make sure to get a room in the section of hotel across street from beach , that section is much nicer and quieter.
Flamingo beach is very laid back and much smaller than Tamarindo..

Posted by
5 posts

Just returned last night from 3rd trip to Costa Rica. 1st trip (late May) was in Manuel Antonio (daughter got married there). Spent 8 days, sight seeing, tours, national park, wedding. Beautiful area. We flew from LA into San Jose and then took a puddle jumper to Quepos, then taxi. If you do not take puddle jumper, it is a 3 hour car ride to Manuel Antonio. We stayed at a rented house for the wedding, then moved to Parador Resort, very nice and did not rent a car this trip but multiple family members did no issues. Taxis are fairly cheap. Second trip (early Sept) we went to Tamarindo (more touristy) but was want we wanted= very nice beach area, able to walk into town and great restaurants. We flew into Liberia, pre-arranged a shuttle $80 for 2-7 people about 1 hour 15 minutes stayed at hotel, Capitan Suizo and got an amazing package through them; tours, dinner on beach and 2 couple massages. Last week, we returned to Tamarindo had the kids and grandkids, rented a house on beach. Found on Trip Advisor, thru RPM services. We had 2 cars (kids in carseats) and a golf-cart for around town. We will probably return next year but see volcano and the cloud forest before we hit beach. If you do rent a car, get the maximum insurance, it is expensive but worth it. We had friends that were in an accident during a bad storm, didn't take the insurance and had a messy situation. Fodor's has a good book on Costa Rica. We've had no issues with crime, thief, etc. during any of trips, and the locals could not be nicer. CR is the same flight time for us as to Hawaii, and we prefer the relaxed feel of CR - this is our new tropical destination. Check out TripAdvisor for hotels/B&Bs etc. Hope you enjoy your trip and make great family memories.

Posted by
93 posts

We spent a week in Manuel Antonio with 2 other couples in February. Had a great time. We flew to San Jose and rented a car from Alamo at the San Jose Airport. The drive to Manuel Antonio should "normally" take about 2 1/2 hours. It took us 4 hours due to heavy Friday afternoon traffic in San Jose and also a wreck that slowed things down about halfway there. It was easy to navigate the roads (once we got out of San Jose). We did fully insure the vehicle, due to reading about damage and theft. We had no problems with either. We did include a wifi for the car which was a portable device that allowed connecting to wifi. I then used the wifi to use GPS on my phone. The locals recommended WAZE app for navigation as they said it was more reliable than Google. We did use it most of the time and had good luck with it. It was nice as we could take it with us and were able to use wifi from anywhere. We never left anything in the car when we parked.

We rented a 3 bedroom home in Manuel Antonio using VRBO. It was wonderful, pool, concierge available for assistance and all the amenities. Were visited by Capuchin monkeys and squirrel monkeys. Since the cost was split between 3 couples it was more affordable than a hotel for us. Very lovely area and we felt safe.

We did take a guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park. Highly recommend the guided tour as the guides have telescopes and can find the animals you would miss on your own. I recommend the morning tour as it is not as hot, and I think the animals are more active. We also did an ATV tour through a palm plantation and then a hike through the rain forest to some waterfalls. Drove to Nauyaca Waterfalls and enjoyed that trip as well. There are many activities available in the area. Many of the tour operators include transportation from your hotel or house in the price of the tour. We took advantage of this, so we didn't have to worry about directions and parking.

We used our car to drive to restaurants, grocery store (There's a nice one "BM" on the edge of town in Quepos), around town, etc. . We were glad we had the car as it made it easier to get around for our group of 6. There are buses running and you can also call taxi cabs.

Posted by
11 posts

thanks Ellen,

Appreciate the info. on the guided tour of the National Park rather than on your own which is what we were thinking and definitely will go in the morning.

We are looking forward to this trip and love hearing about others that have been there.

Roberta

Posted by
42 posts

I second the suggestion to get a guide in any of the national parks. Not only do they have telescopes but they are expert at spotting things in the jungle that are difficult to find. Our guide in Manuel Antonio and in Corcovado were unbelievable in spotting hidden animals. it was almost like they were planted there on purpose. Once we were driving down a narrow road on the way to the park and the guide said to stop because he had spotted an owl in a tree that I probably would have missed if we were just walking by the tree. We also stayed in Airbnb's throughout Costa Rica and most of them were great. We changed our itinerary in mid trip and found an Airbnb for the next night which turned out to be great. We also rented a car at the airport with no problems.

Posted by
11 posts

thanks for the advice on the Airbnb's as that is what we were thinking. Did any of them have some amenities, like pool?

Posted by
42 posts

None of the Airbnbs we stayed in had pools but one had a beautiful garden. My philosophy is to consider Airbnbs as different from hotels - you trade the pool, exercise room and chocolate wafer on the pillow for personal interactions with the host, local knowledge about restaurants and sites to see and living with the locals.

Lazy Lizard Sailing is provided the facility for sunset catamaran, morning catamaran, special charter and private charter tour in Costa Rica. The basic charter is four hours and will have sailing back to marina through the always stunning sunset. We are happy tour to customize the details of trip; we are choose to extend the duration, upgrade the food and beverage menu and include water based activities. watch the video on https://vimeo.com/user87995923/review/282838779/5662737201