If so, can you tell me a good place to stay in the Guanacaste area? Also, good itinteries? I am sort of under a time crunch and with working a million hours, my planning time is short. Help!
Jill, I was there a lot of years ago. Most beautiful. I went there to see birds but I was blown away by the flora, plant life, insects, animals and howler monkeys. Whole hillsides were covered by impatiens. My suggestions are to spend a minimum amount of time in San Jose. With my early version of the Rick Steve's backpack (which I still have), I took the local bus to the Selva Verde Lodge. Stayed in a wild guava forest (love guavas). bungalows were elevated in the trees with walkways between them. No hot water but the water was warm. No glass on the windows - just screens. May be different today. On the way, you pass the Poas volcano where you can actually stay on the edge of the volcano if you wish. You will occasionally feel the ground shake a bit from Arenal, the other volcano. Visited a banana plantation.
Took a 2hr ride in an open large canoe to Tortuguero to stay there for a few days. Saw turtle nesting sites. Was awakened each morning by the howler monkeys. What a treat. Daily hikes in the area. Did some river rafting down the Reventezon river. Lots of birds and crocodiles along the banks. The Pacuare river has tougher rafting. Did not do that one. Finally, went to the Monteverde cloud forest. 50 species of hummingbirds whiz by you head going to and from the large amount of bird feeders in the park area. Did see two resplendent quetzals. I suggest you avoid Puerto Limon. You don't really need the western side of Costa Rica except for the Corcavado National Park in the extreme southwest. I did not have time to get there. You probably do have to go west to Punta Arenas in the western part to get to Monteverde but its not worth staying in Punta Arenas IMHO.
I took a tour with Caravan a few years ago. It hit all the high points - 3 nights in Tortuguero, 2 nights at the Arenal volcano, national parks, bioreserve, cloud forest, coffee plantation tour, rainforest canopy tour, and a night each way in San Jose. We did everything that the previous poster mentioned, including the cabins in the jungle with only screens in the windows. It was our favorite part of the trip. Manuel Antonio National Park, outside of Quepos (western side), is the most popular park in Costa Rica and is full of monkeys. Since your planning time is limited you might consider a tour. Just a note: Monteverde is in the east, so I'm not sure why you would have to go through Puntarenas to get there.
I'm looking into tours for the near future. These might be helpful for you.
www.gadventures.com 16 days for about $1400. Canadian. Appears to be more ecologically oriented.
www.costaricexperts.com 9 days for $2000. Chicago based.
www.wildplanetadventures.com More outdoor oriented. Pretty expensive. 14 days for $4800.
www.roadscholar.org. 9 days for $1500.
I'm leaning toward gadventures or roadscholar. Haven't decided yet.
If you want some flexibility in your sightseeing, you can stay at a Guanacaste hotel and use a tour company like Swiss Travel www.swisstravelcr.com for maybe a day trip. I would recommend having someone else drive, or use a GPS, as there are not as many clear road signs as you would have in the States. I am a costa rican and I live here, but if I want to relax and enjoy a day trip, I normally have someone else drive. Regarding hotels, there are more all inclusive hotels now, many big name hotels are in Guanacaste.